Volcano, Big Island, Hawaii
K?lauea is one of the most spectacular volcanoes existing on Big Island in Hawaii. Rising 4,091 feet above sea level, the summit caldera is a broad shelf of uplands well beneath the long profile of Mauna Loa. It is a very low flat shield volcano lying against the southeast flank of the larger volcano known as Mauna Loa. It is one of 5 shield volcanoes that create the Hawaiian islands. The others are Kohala (extinct), Mauna Kea (dormant), Hualalai (dormant), Mauna Loa (active), and Kilauea (most active). The term “Kilauea” in Hawaiian means “spewing” or “much spreading” which refers to its frequent lava flows which has been flowing forth from from the Kilauea caldera/Pu’u ‘O’O crater since January 1983. Kilauea is the most active volcano on Earth and is also the most visited by tourists. It is because of this, volcanologists gather here and have a lab/station located on the rim of the caldera. One of the most recent volcanoes that join in effort to create the Hawaiian Archipelago islands as the Pacific Plate moves over the Hawaiian hotspot undersea. The 1983 eruption has been continuous to the date of this writing and onwards. 33 Eruptions have taken place since 1952 not including this 1983 occurence. She has been recorded to erupt in written history from as early as the 1820’s. Local history tells of the 1790 eruption that killed a party of warriors and their families traversing the area who were sent by the last chief of the island Keoua Kuahu/ula to resist Kamehameha I. In 1959 one of the most spectacular eruptions took place with lava fountaining nearly 580 meters into the sky. From 1969-1974 an eruption labelled “Mauna Ulu” began on May 24, 1969 and continued to July 22, 1974 being the longest flank eruption of any Hawaiian volcano in recorded history – creating a new vent spewing forth lava and adding significant land mass to the island. The 1983 eruption took place on January 3rd along the East Rift Zone from Pu’u ‘O’o and Kupa’ianaha vents, continously to this day, pushing lava flows travelling 11-12 km from the vents into the sea and to this date building over 2 km of new land. Additional lava flows in 1990 destroyed the towns of Kalapana and Kaimu, Kaimu Bay, Kalapana Black Sand Beach, and a large section of Rte 130. Most of her eruptions are non-explosive in the recent history but has had devestating large explosions in the past. Local legend places that this volcanoe is the specific home of the Hawaiian Goddess Pele. She only erupts when she is angry. Lava flows destroyed more homes in a 2008 eruption. Continuously erupting and flowing lava, one can view the flows at a place the government has set up an observation location. You an reach the caldera from Hilo via the Hawaii Belt Road which is State Route 11. The Caldera rests within Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park which encompasses a portion of the volcano with its visitor center located near the margin of the summit caldera to overlook the large pit crater called Halema’uma’u which measures 3 x 5 km. Plumes fissure and erupt from three locations – the Halema’uma’u Crater, the Pu’u ‘O’o Crater, and along the coast where the East Rift zone enters the ocean. The plumes create large blankets of vog (volcanic fog) that envelopes the island. 90% of the surface of this volcano is less than 1,100 years old, and 70% of the surface is less than 600 years old. Located in Volcano National Park, there is a visitor center with lots of information about Kilauea, the region, the ecology, the geology, with exhibits about the volcano, plants, animals, and cultural history. A 20 minute movie is available as well as ranger-led activities. A gift shop is also available.
Since the first Polynesian voyagers arrived here, Kilauea, Mauna Loa, and the other volcanoes of Hawai’i island have been potent sources for artistic inspiration. Western artists have also found Kilauea to be richly evocative. In the late 19th century, visiting European and American artists shared Kilauea’s fiery beauty with the world in paintings whose dramati style became known as the “Volcano school”. Today artists working in every medium, including glass, ceramics, paintings, photography, wood, fiber, and words, still find these volcanoes, forests, flowers, and birds to be powerfully inspiring.
Art Showcase: The Volcano Art Center Gallery, just a few steps from here, is housed in the historic 1877 building that was once the Volcano House Hotel. It exhibits and sells art inspired by this dynamic place and the rich cultural heritage of Hawai’i island. Traditional craft demonstrations are also held during the year on the porch. Each handcrafted piece of art has a story to tell. Living Stone:Hawai’ian tradition says that the volcano Goddess Pele, resides in the Halema’uma’u, the summit cratere of Kilauea. As a powerful creative force in nature, with a presence that is both physical and spiritual, she is clearly an inspiration to many. The elemental sculpture, Ulumau Pohaku Pele (ever growing rock of Pele), honors Pele, and the wahi kapu (sacred places) of Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Hula Traditions: Kilauea has inspired countless hula and chants, and these dances and stories continue to be performed in the park, especiall at the pa hula (hula platform) in front of the Volcano Art Center Gallery. Hula halau (schools) from around Hawaii and the world visit Halema’uma’u Crater to honor Pele. Hot Glass: Kilauea’s molten mass creates nature’s glass in many forms – indescent, rope textured rock. Pele’s tears – made of volcanic glass, frozen lava rock bubbles, and spatters whose shapes defy description. This raw mineral power erupting into misty rain forests is rich inspiration for imagination of contemporary glass artists. Native Woods: Hawaii forests are home to native trees that grow nowhere else on the planet – koa, ohi a lehau, kamani, milo. These woods have been prized since ancient times for making everything from canoes, weapons and kapa beaters to exquisite callabash bowls and ku’i statues. Today these native woods and other beautiful introdued woods are still used to craft treasured heirloom pieces.
~ historical marker at Volcano National Park
- East Rift Zone: Volcanic craters and cones mark Kilauea’s eastern slope – Periodically hot molten rock, or magma, rises vertically from a reservoir deep below and erupts here at the summit of Kilauea. However, magma can also move sideways underground, triggering earthquakes and eruptions along the flanks of the volano in regions called rift zones. This East Rift Zone begins here at the summit caldera and extends eastward 35 miles to the coast, then 50 miles beyond the coast underwater. On the surface its marked by a chain of collapsed craters, volcanic cones, fissures, and lava flows. Below the surface lies a complex and everchanging ‘plumbing’ system of cracks and voids through which magma invades the rock. An eruption occurs when magma breaks through to the surface. Mauna Ulu, the lava shield on the distant horizon, lies on this end of the East Rift Zone. It was created by a series of eruptions from 1969 and 1974. ~ Marker at Volcano National Park.
- In 1866 American writer Mark Twain hiked to the caldera floor below here and witnessed a scene quite different from today – a lake of molten lava. “It was like gazing at the sun at noonday, except that the glare was not so white. At unequal distances all around the shores of the lake were nearly white-hot chimneys or hollow drums of lava, four or five feet high, and up through them were bursting gorgeous sprays of lava gouts and gem spangles, some white, some red, and some golden – a ceaseless bombardment, and one that fascinated the eye with its unapproachable splendor.” ~ marker at Volcano National Park