Saturday, June 13, 2009

Report from the Road: Hawaii volcanoes 3

More excitement from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in today's post. The pictures are from days ago, but trip organizing and conducting is a very busy business, especially when the trip leader fails to triple check some of the logistical arrangements. Someday I may talk about it...

Halemaumau is a pit crater in the caldera of Kilauea volcano on the Big Island. It is reputed to be the home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess. I'm beginning to think she is watching over us, in a good way. There had been not a whisper of activity in the crater for most of the last quarter century, but in late March 2008 an explosion and collapse of a pit within the pit (which is itself a pit within a bigger pit, kind of like a Bushka doll) showed that activity was resuming. In the last few days, lava has been detected at the bottom of the pit, sloshing back and forth. The ever-present steam plume has begun glowing at night, causing a local sensation as hundreds come up the mountain at night to see the eerie looking orange light.

I kinda cheated, and I hope my students don't really notice this. I was done hiking only an hour before sunset, so instead of heading back to Hilo with everyone else, I wandered back to the Jagger Museum, and watched the glow for a bit while the moon rose. It was eeriely beautiful ('eerie' is a common word for the day).

I'm so glad to be here and seeing these precious gifts of nature! And even better is that I am able to share the experience with 26 of my students.

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