Tag Archives: Vog

First visit to Hawaii

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Meaningful Memories.’ See more responses here.

This seemed like an opportune time to revisit my first visit to Hawaii, back in 2010. My wife and I stayed in a vacation rental near Captain Cook, overlooking Kealakekua Bay. The sky was hazy with vog from Kilauea Volcano, but the place was awash with colorful flowers. Just down the road was the Painted Church and at the foot of the hill, Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park celebrates Hawaiian culture and history with its wooden ki’i and towering palms.

We traveled the whole island from the black sand beach at Pololu (even if we had to pass the carcass of a dead whale twice) to the black sand beach at Punalu’u, dotted with resting green turtles, and rocky surrounds. There were waterfalls big and small, and roads lined with tropical foliage leading to the active lava flow at that time.

There, signs warned that flowing lava is dangerous (who knew?), but we were still able to get within 10 feet of oozing tongues of red, and saw small fires still burning in nearby brush.

There was even a house for sale: ‘Buy now before it burns!’ We didn’t, though that house still stands while others, much farther from that scene, have since been consumed by subsequent flows.

It was this visit that prompted us to return permanently two years later. Hawaii isn’t paradise – it has its pros and cons like any place – but we haven’t regretted the move and are looking forward to the next 10 years.

Now you see it …

Hualalai from water

Hualalai from the water with vogOver the last few weeks, several people have asked me how I’ve been affected by Kilauea Volcano’s latest eruption in a subdivision in Puna. I’ve been happy to respond that, where I live, I’ve hardly been affected at all.

I live near the northern tip of the Big Island and the current eruption is taking place in the southeast corner of the island. This eruption is also not like the recent one in Guatemala, with a deadly explosive element. Instead, it has settled into a steady, if prolific stream of molten lava, burning buildings in its path on the way to the coast. This behavior makes the direct impact of the eruption a more localized affair. If a person lived in the vicinity of the lava flow path, they’ve probably been forced to leave their home with no indication of when they might be able to return. But for the rest of the island, the lava itself poses no threat. What does affect, not only this island, but also others in the Hawaiian chain, is vog.

Vog, a blend of the words ‘volcanic,’ ‘smog,’ and ‘fog,’ is the result of gases from an eruption reacting with moisture and sunlight. It varies in intensity depending on the output of the volcano and it varies in who it affects depending on the wind.

Vog has been around a while, since the volcano has been erupting, pretty much continuously, since 1983. That 1983 eruption was at the Pu’u O’o vent. Then, in 2008, a new vent opened in Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, within the summit caldera. With two active vents, the vog got noticeably worse. This year’s new eruption has added to the output and also thrown in some ash deposits on areas within range.

The northeast trades are the dominant winds here and when they blow, the vog is blown along the south coast of the Big Island and then up along the west coast. Typically it will reach Kailua Kona, about halfway up, or a little farther north.

Up here on the northern tip the trades blow strong, too strong for many people who find it too windy. But the advantage of those winds is that they keep the vog at bay. Ironically, this past winter, the winds were more variable and we had more vog up here than usual. But since this current vent opened, the trades have been fairly consistent and have kept this part of the island mostly vog free.

Yesterday was an exception. The winds weakened and the vog crept north, which is what the photos are about. The top one, I’ve run before. It shows Hualalai Volcano seen from the water off the north Kohala coast. The bottom photo was taken yesterday from roughly the same area (though without zooming in). Hualalai is gone! That headland is about 400 yards away and I’d estimate that visibility was around 2 miles. I couldn’t even see the horizon. The water just faded away into the vog.

Even when it’s voggy, it doesn’t bother me too much, but some people are more affected. The air becomes acrid and sore throats and noses are common. Luckily, the winds picked up during the day and conditions improved, so we’ll see what happens.

Jacaranda flowers

Jacaranda flowers cluster

Jacaranda flowersA final response to the last edition of the WordPress photo challenge with a theme of ‘All time favorites.’

I headed back to Pu’u Wa’awa’a last week, because this is the time of year when several kinds of trees are in bloom. One of those trees is the jacaranda, which blooms from April to June, and produces masses of blue to lavender flowers. Jacarandas prefer cooler elevations so the lower areas of Pu’u Wa’awa’a are right in their zone.

I wasn’t disappointed. Several trees were covered with these delicate flowers, which somewhat made up for the fact that the entire hill was shrouded in thick vog, exacerbated by the ongoing eruption down in Puna.

Jacaranda flowers and bee

Planes landing at Kailua-Kona Airport

Plane landing at Kailua-Kona airport

Hawaii has the reputation of being a tropical paradise, but arriving at Kailua-Kona Airport looks anything but. The final approach to the airport comes over the 1801 Huʻehuʻe lava flow from Hualali volcano. This flow is still quite barren with next to no vegetation. For first-time visitors, touching down on actual tarmac can come as something of a relief.

Exiting the plane, it will most likely be hot, but sunny? Not so much, especially if touchdown is after noon. Typically, clouds roll in during the morning and vog (volcanic smog, caused by pollutants from Kilauea Volcano) settles over the area. The appearance, seen in these photos, is sometimes called ‘concrete skies.’ Not a bad description.

Plane landing at Kailua-Kona