Monday, April 21, 2008

Hawaiian Redux: Hot Lava!

Okay, kids, gather 'round for the next installment of "Our Belated Vacation Photos!" When las we left you, we were on our way around the Big Island, having seen the view from Waipio Valley Overlook and checked out Akaka Falls. Next we were headed to Volcanoes National Park.

The full story that accompanies these photos can be found here and here.

We headed up to the Kilauea Caldera. Imagine an IMMENSE crater, which is like a bowl with a flat stone bottom, with several smaller craters inside of it. Some of those craters even have smallers ones inside of them. None of these has molten lava visible, but did at one time, which cooled, and turned into the hard stone floors of the current craters.

You can drive around the Caldera and there are many overlooks and scenic things. The southern half of the loop drive is closed because one crater, the one that is the actual home of the volcano goddess, Pele, has cracked open and is spewing steam and noxious sulphur gases (that can kill you) and these gasses drift over the southern half of the circle road.

So we got to see the steam vents (lots of land with steam just seeping up out of the dirt and holes in the ground). You could lay your hand on the dirt and it was warm even on that chilly, rainy day.

This is the Halema‘uma‘u crater (Home of Pele) and you can see the steam coming up out of the new crack. You can read here about how Michael and I saw this cloud actually form into the head and hand of Pele, looking quite furious and ready to attack someone with a stick (the best picture I never took).

We were thrilled to find that the Thurston Lava Tube was open, as it was the thing on the Big Island that Noah wanted to do the most.

Sorry the photo is blurry, but you gotta love those "jazz hands"! The green curly plant above was found in the "jungle" just outside the entrance to the tubes.

This volcano, while there is no lava coming out of its top, has cracks in its side where molten lava from which lava IS continuously spewing, and its moving in 3 or 4 rivers down to the sea. Its a rare thing to see lava spilling into the ocean and creating more "island" so we drove down to the coast past Noah's bedtime, and made our way with many other lava-hunters over the lava fields that had just formed a few years prior, to see the new flow.

This is the flashlight trail of folks walking over the lavabeds to the viewing area on the coast, where most just sat and stared for an hour or so.

It's kind of blurry, too, but kind of gives you an idea of what it was like. They checked each visitor for flashlights before we hiked in. Here is the lava flow dripping into the sea, as best as I could get it with no tripod.

I wanted to kick myself that I brought the point-and-shoot with telephoto AND video and forgot to use it at all, because I was so excited to see what I could pull out of my wide lens. Probably would have been all bouncy and undetailed anyway.

That's it for the pictures, but the story of the new crack in the crater is kind of interesting. Apparently, this crater, for a hundred years before 1924, was a pool of roiling orange lava. Visitors used to walk right up to the edge of it. Then, in 1924, it exploded, sending all that lava flying, the floor dried up, and has been steaming occasionally since then, but nothing until now. Two nights after we stood at the overlook at the Jagger Museum, the thing exploded again, sending a rain of lava rocks over the observation deck, the roof of the museum, and the road, closing it all until it was deemed safe again.

A time-line, for those of you still with me:

At 2:58 a.m. on Wednesday, March 19, 2008, scientists at the Hawaiian
Volcano Observatory recorded a small explosion in Halema`uma`u crater, the first
explosive event since 1924. Debris was scattered over a 75 acre area. A light
dusting of ash fell in a community several miles away in the district of

On April 9, another small explosion occurred, depositing dense blocks and
particles of fresh lava on the Halema`uma`u overlook area.

On April 16 at 3:57 a.m., another small explosion from the vent occurred
producing a dusting of pale-red ash west of the crater.

The new explosion pit continues to vigorously vent gas and ash, with the
plume alternating between brown (ash-rich) and white (ash-poor).

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Love that crater pic! That is worthy of framing. I'm impressed at how many "natural" things you guys did. I think most people just go to the beach and take touristy photos of coconuts and hula dancers. Good for you for actually exploring Hawaii.