Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 17 - Hawaiian Volcano National Park

January 28, 2010 - Thursday - Big Island

When we went through the gates at Hawaiian Volcano National Park, it was the second time I got to whip out my lifetime Senior Citizen Pass since purchasing it on Maui at Haleakala. The first was the Iao Needle, also on Maui. We got to the Visitors Center just in time to join a walking tour of the Kilauea Caldera. Our tour guild was a nice young guy from Philadelphia who was interning at the park.

The lava flow that had been going on since the 1980's has stopped and a new fissure has opened in the Caldera to relieve the pressure. The last time Sigrid and I were at the park, we tried to walk across the lava fields to see the lava flowing into the ocean. We didn't make it, but we got close enough to see the large column of steam rising out of the ocean. Things are different now.
The column of smoke is not the benign steam that existed before. This stuff is mostly pure nitrogen and sulfur oxides..........the stuff that makes smog in the cities. We saw a lot of haze on Maui but didn't connect it to this island. Our Maui condo owner said it was VOG (volcanic smog). I was skeptical because I couldn't imagine that much pollution coming all the way from the Big Island based on what I had seen in previous visits. When we got to the BI, the haze was even worse. It wasn't until the wind shifted directions and the skies cleared, that I began believing that the new fissure was the real culprit. Then when I saw it, I was totally convinced. The column of polluting gases was immense and you could see it trailing for miles out into the ocean.
In this view, I was reminded of a huge tornado rampaging across the Kansas plains.....big and nasty.

Here is a panoramic view of the entire caldera. It looks best on a large screen so you can see all the detail. Double click on the photo to enlarge it and then "back arrow" to return to this screen.

Hyperblogal, one of the faithful followers of our blog, has been harassing me about getting a photo of lava via his comments on the blog throughout our adventure in Hawaii. He isn't satisfied with the cold black stuff. He demands the red hot flowing kind. So, at the conclusion of our guided tour, I quickly repelled down the 450 foot walls of the caldera and sprinted the mile or so to the new fissure. I ignored all the signs placed on the floor of the caldera telling me that death was imminent if I continued. The heat was intense and the noxious gases were unbearable...........but I had to get the photo. I was able to lay on my belly and look over the edge of the fissure to capture this photo. I hope you are satisfied Hyperblogal!
Hyperblogal is actually a lifelong friend who happens to be a professional photographer. There is a link on the right side of the photos and text that will take you to his blog (My Bog List). If you enjoy good photography, check him out. Wait a minute.........why am I promoting a guy who most likely wanted to see me burn in the fires of Pele'?

Here is another panoramic photo. Despite all the problems it is causing for tourists and islanders, it still has a certain beauty.

Edel and Sigrid were fascinated by the volcano.

On the way back to the condo, we stopped at another of our favorite shops for refreshments. Taking photos of lava really makes you thirsty.

There was a neat mural on the wall of the bake shop. Enlarge it to see all the information on it.

This was the last big sightseeing day of our trip but not the last posting. More to come.


  1. Are you sucker enough to think I slide down a 450 foot rope and ran for a mile across the caldera to stick my head into an eruption and take this picture? I took this picture while in the Visitors Center. They had a video running and I knew you had a need for flowing lava.

  2. Yes, yes I am. And it is much appreciated. I don't believe the visitor's center story for a minute.