Tag Archives: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea lava

Lava fountains flare up alongside the rim of the active vent in Halemaʻumaʻu Crater at the summit of Kilauea Volcano.
The walls of the crater illuminated by the lava.

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Mother Earth.’ See more offerings here.

The Big Island is home to Madame Pele, who in Hawaiian culture is the goddess of volcanoes. She is the creator of new land as well as a destroyer. These photos were taken on April 24, 2018. (An account of that visit, and more photos, can be found here.) On May 1, the lava in the lake began to drop. Within a week, it had dropped more than 700 feet and continued falling. Lava had also disappeared from Pu’u O’o, the other active vent on Kilauea.

The drop in lava levels was due to magma in the system moving down the east rift zone of the volcano where it emerged in a series of vents in Leilani Estates, a housing subdivision in the southeast part of the island. This new eruption lasted until late August, 2018, since when the volcano has been quiet.

While there has been no visible activity, below ground, magma has been moving through the system, notably into Kilauea’s summit chamber. It’s surely only a matter of time before Madame Pele makes her presence known again on one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

The early morning light shows the crater and land around Halemaʻumaʻu Crater. This is a scene that no longer exists. Since this photo was taken, not only is the vent no longer active, but the crater floor has collapsed numerous times and the walls have also subsided in places.

Puna Coast Trail: Apua Point

This is the third and final part of a three-part description of a hike along the Puna Coast Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (See part 1 here, part 2 here).

The last part of the trail before ʻĀpua Point crosses over the only stretch of ʻaʻā lava on the trail which, as can be seen in the photo at top right, is markedly more rough and jagged than pahoehoe lava. This ʻaʻā is part of a 1969 flow from the same eruption at Mana Ulu that produced the pahoehoe lava that most of the trail passes over. The Mauna Ulu eruption lasted from 1969 to 1974.

ʻĀpua Point is like a little oasis in a bleak landscape. Flows from the Mauna Ulu eruption reached the ocean on either side of the point, but the point itself was spared. The top photo is a panoramic view of the coast, stitched together (not well) from two photos, to show the view from ʻĀpua Point’s outhouse – actually a composting toilet. This toilet also represents the sum total of the facilities for anyone thinking of camping there.

ʻĀpua Point itself is a rocky coastline jutting into the ocean. But behind this wall of rock, a sandier area hosts fields of naupaka, sea purslane, and other plant life, as seen in the photo at bottom right. Also in the background of this photo, a passing shower runs along Hōlei Pali. As I mentioned in part one of this description, the trail can be hot, wet, and windy, but for my hike, I saw moderate breezes, some overcast skies, and just a few spritzing showers.

Swimming in the ocean along this coast is very dangerous because of high surf and strong currents. But at ʻĀpua Point there are shallow pools, suitable for soaking, that are protected from the surf by a border of rocks. There are also a few small sandy beaches such as the ones in the photo below.

Besides the composting toilet, there is one other structure on ʻĀpua Point. It’s a small shed with an open covered area beside it, surrounded by naupaka and a few palm trees. This covered area represents pretty much the only shade to be found on the entire hike. The shed is used by the Hawksbill Sea Turtle Recovery Project, which monitors and protects endangered hawksbill turtles which use this area for nesting. I believe the nesting season runs from May to September, so I might have to return sometime after that.

And speaking of returning, from here it was time to turn around and hike the 6.6 miles back to the car. The hike took me about 3 hours each way with, of course, numerous stops for photography and just to enjoy the views.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/. For more information about the Puna Coast Trail, go to bigislandhikes.com/puna-coast-trail.

Puna Coast Trail: Along the coast

This is the second part of a three-part description of a hike along the Puna Coast Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (See part 1 here).

As the trail reaches the coast, it passes over an older flow that has a fair amount of vegetation on it. The bottom right photo shows the trail cutting through a swathe of naupaka, sourbush, and assorted grasses.

This area was, despite the threat of volcanic activity, well occupied by early Hawaiian people. Along the trail are several reminders of that including the structures below. The photo, below middle, shows the amazing abilities of plants to grow in even the most daunting locations. The roots are somewhere deep in the lava, from which the trunk of this noni snakes upward. The large, nobbly fruit can be seen on this plant. This fruit, when ripe, has a pungent aroma which supposedly smells like vomit!

The bottom photo shows an area of rocks and black sand on the coast, backed by an extensive field of naupaka. Beyond that, the trail passes close to a pair of sea arches seen in the top photo and the one at top right. This is a rugged coastline and, when the weather is rough, huge waves can crash up and over the lava. It’s also an unstable coast with rocks and sections of cliff liable to tumble into the ocean.

In the background of the top and bottom photos are the palm trees of ʻĀpua Point, which will be the focus of the third and final post about this trail, tomorrow.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/. For more information about the Puna Coast Trail, go to bigislandhikes.com/puna-coast-trail.

Puna Coast Trail: From the trailhead toward the coast

Last month, I posted photos of colorful lava (here) that I saw on a hike I’d just done. In that post, I noted that ‘I’ll do a post about the trail once I’ve gone through the way-too-many photos I took that day!’ With all that’s been going on in the interim, processing those photos took a long time, but now I’m done. So here’s the first of three posts about the trail, not that you can follow in my footsteps right now because Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is currently closed.

As the name indicates, the Puna Coast Trail travels along the coast of the park, but it starts about a mile inland, across Chain of Craters Road from the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs trailhead. The trail is 11.3 miles long and ends at Halapē campground, but I only hiked as far as ʻĀpua Point, 6.6 miles along the trail. This rugged trail can be hot, windy, and wet so sturdy shoes or boots, a hat, sunscreen, and raingear are a must. There’s no fresh water on the trail so take plenty, as well as enough to eat.

The trail starts by crossing the 1972 flow from an eruption at Mana Ulu. In the top photo, lava from this flow surrounds a small area of older lava. The ferns growing in the cracks are Polypodium pellucidum, an endemic fern known in Hawaii as ae (pronounced Ah Ay). These ferns are among the first plants to grow in new lava fields. The faint outline of the trail can be seen extending from the middle left of the photo to the cairn on the horizon.

Top right: An upwelling in an old lava flow has cracked open to reveal a variety of colors within. In the background is Hōlei Pali. A pali is a steep slope or cliff. When a flow goes over a pali, it can often be seen, safely, from a distance away.

Center right: A trail-marking cairn on a section of older lava that has been somewhat revegetated. The noni (Morinda citrifolia) shrub beside the cairn is another early colonizer of lava flows being tolerant of the harsh conditions found there. Noni is a ‘canoe plant,’ having been introduced to Hawaii by the first Polynesians who arrived in their ocean going canoes.

Bottom right: Cairns mark the trail across the expanse of lava from the 1971 flow, where very little vegetation can be found. This first part of the trail angles down toward the ocean, which can be seen in the distance.

Below: Colorful smooth pahoehoe lava lies on top of ropey pahoehoe lava, from the same 1971 flow. The kind of lava can change quite quickly as conditions change in the flow itself and the terrain it travels through. This also shows the colors in different layers of lava as well as an ae fern getting a toehold.

Bottom: A little hill of pahoehoe lava showing its different forms all jumbled up. I almost included this photo in the earlier post since its colors, textures, and swirls were unexpected art for me.

Tomorrow, part two follows the hike along the coast itself.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/. For more information about the Puna Coast Trail, go to bigislandhikes.com/puna-coast-trail.

Colorful pahoehoe lava

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Art Unexpected.’ See more responses here.

This was a timely topic since, a couple of days ago, I went for a hike in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I headed out on the Puna Coast Trail, one of several longer trails west of Chain of Craters Road, that I haven’t explored before. (I’ll do a post about the trail once I’ve gone through the way-too-many photos I took that day!)

One of the highlights of the trail was the extensive areas of colorful pahoehoe lava. I’ve lived here a while now and I know lava doesn’t just come in basic black. I’ve seen lighter and darker flows; I’ve seen flows with a brown tint; I’ve seen flows with hints of red or green in them. But prior to this hike, I had never seen flows with such a variety of vibrant colors.

Instant Hawaii has a description of different types of lava (here) and they say “All the differences in pahoehoe flows stems completely from the temperature of the lava as well as chemical composition. Since both can change during a flow – it is possible to get all types of pahoehoe flowing from a single flow, over time.” I would also say that, what they call ‘quiet flow’ lava, is an apt description of these areas. When I was walking over them I thought they seemed harder and more metallic than the surrounding black pahoehoe lava, which tends to crunch a bit when walked on.

But the other thing I thought, as I found myself continually stopping, stooping, snapping photos, was that these flows were art, Madame Pele’s art, and that wasn’t something I was expecting when I set out on the hike.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/.

Firehose of lava

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Dramatic.’ See more responses here.

I’ve opted for a dip into the archives for this challenge. Two years ago, lava from Kilauea Volcano’s Pu’u O’o vent reached the ocean, tumbling down a cliff into the water. One day, the cliff collapsed, leaving the lava shooting out of a hole high up in the new cliff. This was called the firehose of lava because that’s what it looked like.

I first learned about it when I saw a video of the lava firehose on one of the news channels. What impressed me was that it was really hard to to see that it was a video. The flow was so strong and so consistent that it looked like a photograph. It was only by looking closely at the edges of the firehose that I could make out spatters of moving lava.

I headed down to the volcano, to take at look at this phenomenon, the day after I saw the video and was duly impressed by the dramatic scene. It was well worth the trip and well worth my quick visit. The following day another cliff collapse moved the firehose back and out of sight from the observation areas.

These are two photos from that visit. More photos can be seen in previous posts here, here, here, and here.

Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Our National Parks.’ See more responses here. There are two national parks on the island. One is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park which encompasses Kilauea Volcano and Mauna Loa Volcano. The other is the somewhat lesser known Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, which is also known as Place of Refuge.

There are two parts to the park, which are separated by an imposing rock wall. On the inland side of the wall are the grounds where Hawaiian royalty made their home. The water side of the wall was the place of refuge. Anyone who had broken the law or kapu faced the death penalty, but if they could reach a place of refuge they would be forgiven by a priest and allowed to return to their normal lives.

At one end of the wall is the Hale o Keawe temple, surrounded by ki’i (wooden statues). This structure houses the bones of many Hawaiian royalty or ali’i, which are believed to give the place great power or mana.

For more photos and information on this site about these parks, click on the tags for Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park or Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at the bottom of this page.

For more information about Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, visit https://www.nps.gov/puho/index.htm. For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/.

Fissure 8

This time last year, the newest eruption of Kilauea Volcano was still going strong in the Puna district of the Big Island. The previously active vents, in Halemaumau Crater and at Pu’u O’o, drained of lava at the end of April. Lava then moved underground, down the east rift zone, toward the southeast tip of the island. It resurfaced in May in Leilani Estates.

By the end of May, 24 fissures had discharged lava. Two of those sent flows down to the coast, but at the end of May the main eruption settled on Fissure 8. A river of lava flowed northeast, inundating Highway 132 and reaching the ocean at Kapoho Bay in early June. This flow continued into August, but by the end of that month all activity had more or less ceased. In all, more than 700 homes were destroyed during the eruption, but more than 800 acres of new land had been formed.

These photos show Fissure 8, the source of the main flow. The top photo shows Fissure 8’s location, bordered by houses in Leilani Estates that escaped destruction during the eruption. To the right, the main crater and the ‘canal’ that channeled the flow toward the coast. Below, another view of Fissure 8 and the wasteland of destruction surrounding it.

PBS’s NOVA put out a show about the eruption earlier this year with some great information about what was actually going on during the eruption. It might be accessible on their site, PBS.org, or search online for the title of the show: PBS Nova Kīlauea: Hawaiʻi on Fire.