Students Safe in Hawaii

Eight OBU students who traveled to Hawaii for a popular spring biology course are safe on the Big Island, waiting out the arrival of the possible impending tsunami waves in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart on high ground.

Students taking the course "Natural History of the Big Island of Hawaii," taught by Dr. Dale Utt and Dr. Brad Jett, arrived in Hawaii to beach-side accommodations and an afternoon snorkeling excursion, said Dr. Debbie Blue, senior vice president for academic services at OBU. But the initial journey was not uneventful; a man on the students' first flight suffered what seemed to be a heart attack, and the plane was diverted to Salt Lake City, causing the students to miss their connecting flight to Hawaii.

As of Friday morning, March 11, the students had yet to spend a full night in their hotel. As tsunami warnings rang across Hawaii, the students and professors were evacuated from the hotel, and they drove in a van to the Wal-Mart which is approximately 500 feet above sea level.

Blue said the students and professors have been in contact with their families, but phone service is sporadic due to the high volume of calls during this time of emergency.

In the course, BIOL 1999, "Natural History of the Big Island: HAWAII," class members meet once per week on campus during the spring semester, and then travel to Hawaii for field work.

"During our time on the Big Island, we will spend a day hiking Kilauea volcano, snorkel and dive the reefs, view the volcano via helicopter, go whale watching, hike the tropical rainforest, watch the sunset and stargaze from the observatories atop Mauna Kea (elevation 14,000 feet) and enjoy an authentic luau, plus much more," Utt said while announcing the course in Fall 2010.