I woke up on Monday morning to the news that Kilauea Volcano had erupted again. Three vents had opened in Halemaʻumaʻu crater at the summit of the volcano. After the first flurry of activity, the eruption settled down to two of the vents pouring lava into the crater, evaporating a water lake that had formed since the 2018 eruption, and creating a new lava lake at a healthy rate.
This obviously called for action on my part in the form of going down and taking a look. Despite the paucity of tourists on the island, early reports warned that viewing areas were becoming crowded with long waits for parking spaces. But where many people prefer to visit in the late afternoon and wait for it to get dark, I like arriving in the wee hours of darkness and waiting for dawn.
Consequently, yesterday morning I got up at 12:45 a.m. (after a relaxing 3 hours of sleep) and left the house at 1:15 a.m.. The benefit of driving at that hour is that, while the sky is dark, traffic is light. In this instance a second benefit was a wonderful starlit drive, though I couldn’t fully appreciate it since I felt a certain obligation to keep my eyes on the road. Driving over Saddle Road though, I did notice a red glow off to my right, a sure sign of volcanic activity at Kilauea.
I got to the park at 3:45 a.m. and headed for the Kilauea Overlook, the prime viewing area. Parking was easy to come by and the crowds weren’t too heavy. While the vents couldn’t be seen from there (or any of the viewing areas) the sky billowed with orange and red clouds of steam and smoke. The second photo was taken there and I like how the glow illuminates the rock face of the crater.
I drove back to the overlook at the Steaming Bluff. This was farther from the eruption site, but virtually deserted. The top photo was taken there. I wanted to capture the eruption and the starry night, which I couldn’t do at Kilauea Overlook because the eruption dominated everything.
After a short stay there, I moved on to the Keanakākoʻi Overlook at the southeastern corner of the Kilauea summit caldera. This viewing site required a hike in of about a mile on the old Crater Rim Drive, long since closed to vehicles because of damage from previous eruptions. The third photo shows people at the overlook watching the activity. I left there as it started to get light.
So was it worth the early start and long day? Absolutely! The views weren’t as compelling as those from Jaggar Museum, now closed and erased from the online maps, but there aren’t many places on earth where a person can drive to the rim of an active volcano and watch an eruption with any degree of safety. At Kilauea, this is possible, so I take every opportunity to do so because each episode of volcanic activity is different and there’s no telling what I might see.
And the bottom photo? That was taken in June when I went hiking in the park. It was taken from the rim of Halemaʻumaʻu crater somewhere between where the top and second photos were taken. They’re a little different!
More information about the current situation at Kilauea Volcano, including photos and videos can be found at https://www.usgs.gov/observatories/hawaiian-volcano-observatory/news. A map of the park can be found at https://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/maps.htm.