Monday, June 6, 2016

Pele is a Capricious Goddess...Today She Dispensed a Gift

Halemaumau, on the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, is a crater within a caldera that has been simmering away for most of the last seven years. The pit is around 600 feet across, and a few hundred feet down (on most days) there is a roiling lake of molten basalt. On the rarest of occasions the level of the lava lake will rise, and some basalt will flow across the flats, but most of the time the lava lies hidden.

Halemaumau is said to be the habitation of Pele, the volcano goddess of the islands. I've had just enough interesting experiences with flowing lava to think of Pele as a tangible personality with moments of jealousy, but also with a penchant for granting precious gifts at particular moments.

By day, little can be seen of the lava. What glow there is is crowded out completely by sunlight, and although our students were sufficiently impressed by the sight, I was hoping that an opportunity would arise for the group to see Halemaumau at night. The weather was not being cooperative, with a constant threat of rain the last few days, but we took the gamble and headed up to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the late afternoon to see if the rain clouds would clear for us a bit. It turned out that Pele had a grand surprise ready for us.
The glow was there, as expected, and it was spectacular, literally filling the sky with color. But as we watched we realized that something else was happening: there was some fountaining going on, and lava was exploding into the air above the crater rim. This is not a common sight, so it was a thrill to see it happening. Given the low ebb of activity on the volcano over the last several months, I was pretty sure our students wouldn't see any actual lava at all. I was wonderfully wrong!
It's hard to catch a fountain of lava with a still photo, so I took a minute of video (actually seven of  them, but only one turned out) to give you a feel for the action. Enjoy! We did...


GeoStevo said...

Right on. Cool blog, thanks for sharing!

Noah Hughes said...

Wow! So happy to hear that your group got to witness this!

twoeightnine said...

So jealous. When I was leading tours on the Big Island two summers ago we got one night of a spectacular glow and one night of absolutely nothing.