For those who have never seen the Aerial America program on the Smithsonian Channel, they have been missing out on some amazing footage of the United States. For the new DVD, Aerial America: Pacific Rim Collection, the producers have collected four episodes covering the West Coast: California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii. As a lifelong left-coast resident, I must say that I was quite surprised at how much of this material I had never seen before. And viewing some of the sites from the air is an incredible way to experience it.
The DVD begins in California. On the surface, the set-up may seem a little basic. The show is primarily a 250-mile journey from San Simeon to San Francisco, on the Pacific Coast Highway. The episode is anything but “basic,” however, as it presents some of the most striking footage of the entire set. The view of the famous Hearst Castle is something to see, and other notable stops include the old Cannery Row in Monterey, and the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. It is the fantastic California coastline which grabs the most attention however. It is little wonder the state’s nickname is The Golden State.
From California, we head 2550 miles across the Pacific to the six islands that make up Hawaii. The first stop is the island of Hawaii itself, the largest in the chain. Besides the glorious scenery are some fascinating facts. One thing I found pretty incredible is that the first humans arrived on the island around 500 A.D., by boat from the Polynesians, some 2500 miles away.
The island of Kauai hosts Mount Kilauea, which is the most active volcano on the planet. It has been spewing lava continuously since 1983, and the lava itself has extended the coastline some 500 acres, with no sign of stopping. We are then off to Maui, home to the remains of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, who once said “If there is a heaven on earth, it is here.”
Lanai is completely privatized, filled with resorts and high-end hotels. It was there that Bill Gates (then the richest man in the world) was married in 1994. Oahu is home to the biggest city in the state, Honolulu, and for this reason is the most modern looking. We end up on Kuwaii, the sixth and final island, a truly beautiful location.
The following episode finds us back on the mainland, with a visit to Oregon. What I found illuminating about this one was the revelation of just how much of the state is built upon millennia-old lava flows. The program begins in the state’s biggest city, Portland. The mighty Columbia River forms the border between Washington and Oregon, and Portland is located right on its southern edge.