Back in 2005, we visited the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. There were active lava flows at the time, but the main caldera was only venting gases (this was before the lava lake formed in Halema‘uma‘u).
We followed the road around the main caldera, then down to the coast to see where lava flows had obliterated the road and look at active flows waaaay off in the distance.
With the current eruption transforming the area, I’ve just uploaded an album to Flickr. You can look at the full-sized images there, or look back at my original blog posts in which I describe the trip.
Kilauea is often called the world’s most active volcano. It’s been erupting continuously since 1983 at vents several miles away from the caldera. The eruptions are still inside Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, but the lava hasn’t stuck to the boundaries as it flows to the sea.
So late on an April afternoon, we started driving down Chain of Craters Road toward the ocean, hoping to see (from a safe distance) lava pouring into the ocean. The road is named because it connects a series of craters left behind by old vents. At first we stopped at all of them. They ranged from large craters like Keanakako‘i to fifty-foot-deep holes filled with rubble a dozen feet from the road. Soon we realized that would take way too much time, and stuck with the ones that looked particularly interesting.
I don’t recall which crater this one was at (probably either Puhimau or Pauahi), but there was a trail up to a wooden viewing platform. I stopped at one point along the trail and took this picture of a small tree on the edge of the crater.
Let’s see, when we left off, we had nearly completed a circuit around the Kilauea caldera. Before driving down Chain of Craters road to the coast, we stopped at the Thurston Lava Tube.
Lava tubes are formed when smooth a’a lava flows through a channel, then crusts over. The still-molten lava underneath keeps flowing until the source stops, and it drains out, leaving a long tubelike cave.
We were lucky in that there were very few other tourists there at the time. (It was the first week of April, which isn’t exactly the height of Hawaii’s tourist season.) The Thurston tube is famous partly because of its size, and partly because it’s very easy to get to. It’s less than a quarter-mile walk from the road.
Picking up the oft-delayed vacation photos series, here’s the first half of our trip out to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and the volcano Kilauea.
Kilauea is often referred to as the most active volcano in the world. To give you an idea why, its latest eruption started in 1983… and is still going!
We got to the park fairly late in the day, partly because we underestimated the amount of time it would take to drive there from Kailua, and partly because we stopped at various points of interest along the way. It was mid-afternoon by the time we got to the visitor’s center, where Katie stood transfixed by the lava videos and I checked out the maps.
We stopped for a late lunch at Volcano House, an old hotel built on the edge of the Kilauea Caldera. Check out the view! (The image links to a slightly larger copy.)
The crater Halema‘uma‘u, which contained a boiling lava lake from 1823–1924, is visible near the center. The southern slope of Mauna Loa rises in the background. The whole caldera is roughly elliptical in shape, and Volcano House is one end of the longer axis. I don’t remember exactly how far it is from one side to the other, but judging by the map I’d say it’s about 2×3 miles.
Off to the right, behind a tree in the panorama, are the steaming bluffs. Groundwater gets heated by the magma below the volcano and seeps out through cracks all over the caldera.