Category Archives: Volcanoes

Cloud over Mauna Loa eruption

A cloud forms over the site of the eruption on Mauna Loa , Hawaii

On my way to work yesterday, I pulled over to photograph this view of Mauna Loa, early on day three of the current eruption. The heat and emissions from volcanic eruptions can create their own weather. Here, smoke and gasses from the most active vent can be seen rising up into a cloud over the northeast slope of the volcano.

Posted for Bushboy’s Last on the Card photo challenge. See more responses here.

Mauna Loa erupts

Mauna Loa erupts on the Big Island of Hawaii

Yesterday, my morning commute was enlivened by the sight of Mauna Loa erupting. The eruption started late Sunday night and the report I read, before leaving home, said the eruption was currently confined to the summit crater. That clearly wasn’t the case when I took these photos on the way to work. The quality isn’t great because they’re hand-held, but I think they illustrate the scene reasonably well.

In the top two photos, the red smoke is the glow of the lava, but the white/yellow bits are the lava itself. This was a flow moving down the slope of the volcano.

Mauna Loa erupts on the Big Island of Hawaii

By the time I got to work, the sky was lightening but the lava still stood out. In the bottom photo, Mauna Kea is left center, with a stunning sunrise developing behind it. Mauna Loa is on the right and the activity can clearly be seen on the left (northeast) slope of the volcano, some way down from the summit.

Mauna Loa erupts on the Big Island of Hawaii

When I got home, I read that three vents had opened on the northeast rift zone of the volcano, though only one was still active. Flows from Mauna Loa can reach the ocean in a matter of hours, depending on where they’re coming from and going to. This flow is currently heading towards the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, which is mostly a military training area and undeveloped land. The main current danger is from gasses and Pele’s hair, thin strands of brittle volcanic glass, being carried from the volcano to communities downwind. However, new vents could open farther down the rift, bringing lava closer to human habitation.

Changes in eruptions on Mauna Loa can happen pretty quickly so, as usual, the advice here is be prepared and keep tuned to updates on the situation.

Halema’uma’u trail and crater

A view of Halemaumau Crater at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Recently, for this month’s Becky’s Squares theme of “Walking” (See more responses here), I’ve been posting some local walks. Today, I thought I’d revisit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and one of my current favorite trails there.

The top photo is taken from the Byron Ledge trail which crosses the edge of the Kilauea Caldera to join the Halema’uma’u trail. From this junction, the original Halema’uma’u trail traverses the caldera to the edge of Halema’uma’u Crater. That trail has been closed since 2008 because the volcano has been, and currently still is, erupting there. Kilauea Caldera is large and the eruption is two miles from the trail in the top photo, but I always get a bit of a tingle from walking across the caldera floor so close to volcanic activity.

That’s not the only reason I like this trail though. It arrives at the caldera floor by winding down from the rim though some lovely tropical foliage and a moss-covered cutting through rocks that I always stop and photograph even though it doesn’t change from one visit to the next.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to


A switchback on the Kilauea Iki Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
A switchback on the Kilauea Iki Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

The Kilauea Iki Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the most popular in the park, but I’ve never found it crowded when I’ve been there. It features two very different environments, the walk around the heavily wooded crater rim and the crossing of the barren lava on the crater floor, about 400 feet below.

Since the trail is a loop, one has to descend the steep crater wall at one end and climb up the equally steep crater wall at the other. At both ends, the trail is heavily switchbacked to make this possible. For the hiker, the positives of this are that the trail is less steep than a straight shot would be, and the switchbacks are good spots to take a break and get a variety of views.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to Posted for Becky’s Squares theme of “Walking” (See more responses here).

A switchback on the Kilauea Iki Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The Kilauea Iki Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The trail across the crater floor.

A new route up Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a

A view of PuuWaaWaa, Hawaii
Williwilli flowers at PuuWaaWaa, Hawaii

Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a is a cinder cone on the slopes of Hualalai volcano. The name means “many-furrowed hill,” and it’s a place I like to walk at least once a year, but it had been a while since I was up there. Usually, I go there in the spring when Jacarandas and other flowers are blooming. I also try to go in the early morning, since the area tends to cloud up during the day and the wonderful views become obscured.

A couple of weeks ago I made a late decision to do the hike again since the weather looked unusually good. I got there around 2pm and it will come as no surprise that I spent the first 15 minutes of the hike taking photos of Williwilli flowers on a tree about 20 feet from where I parked! (More of those in a few days.)

Silk oak flowers at PuuWaaWaa, Hawaii

The trail follows an old road up the hill past Silk Oak trees, at the tail end of their flowering and sporting a deep red hue I hadn’t seen before. Turn around, and there are good views of Maui to be had. The old road peters out near an old blockhouse, now lacking doors and windows, which offers shelter to livestock on the ranch here. Off to one side is an old quarry, which cuts into the side of the hill. Usually there are goats in this area, but I didn’t see any on this day. Farther up is what’s left of Tamaki Corral, which dates back around 100 years.

Not far after the corral, the trail climbs steeply toward the top. This was where I found a change in the trail. Whereas before the trail was an out-and-back up a steep slope to the top, now a loop has been created. I took this new option to the top where, on this remarkably clear late afternoon, I had great views of Maui, Kohala Mountain, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai. A new sign at the top welcomes hikers to the nearly 4,000 foot summit, and there’s a survey marker at the top riddled with holes, not from gunfire, but to let the wind blow through. There are also a couple of benches where one can sit a while enjoying the views (weather permitting). The hike is steep in places, but not difficult, though not everyone makes it back alive!

I followed the old trail back down and ran into several sheep, which have the run of the land up here, as the sun dipped behind the ridge.

One other difference I noticed with this afternoon hike was the proliferation of birds. There were large numbers of finches, mostly Saffron Finches flitting about, preparing to roost for the evening. Yellow-fronted Canaries were all over the tree tobacco flowers. I also saw, and heard, several Erckel’s Francolins doing their usual fine job of blending in with the vegetation.

And as I walked back down the hill towards my car, the late afternoon sun still shone, illuminating grasses alongside the trail.

Grasses on PuuWaaWaa, Hawaii

Posted for Jo’s Monday Walk. See more walks here.

Lava in all its colors

A variety of colors can be seen in this lava on the Puna Coast Trail (posted here).

This week’s Sunday Stills Monthly Color Challenge is ‘Lava.’ See more responses here. I don’t often run photos I’ve posted before, but this seemed like an opportune instance to rerun some older photos that are perfect for this theme. I’ve put captions on the photos and a link to the original posts for those interested in checking them out.

Old brown lava surrounded by black lava from a more recent flow (posted here).

Mauna Kea in red

Mauna Kea at sunset

Returning from a recent hike, I drove round a corner and saw Mauna Kea looking completely red in the setting sun. I pulled over and grabbed my camera, but by the time I took photos, a matter of a couple of minutes, only the top half of the volcano was still illuminated.

This though was my last photo from September, posted here for Bushboy’s Last on the Card challenge (see more responses here).

I took the photo with a view to making a few adjustments, which I’ve done in the bottom photo. The main thing was to crop some of the sky, which I had to include in the photo to get the full volcano. The other thing, which is a bit of an oddity with my camera, is that in certain lighting conditions it will produce a somewhat dull and hazy image. But adjusting the Lighten Shadows feature from zero to one makes the difference seen here.

Mauna Kea at sunset