We drove to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is about 30 miles from Hilo. There are two craters here – Halema’uma’u and Kilauea Iki. Today apparently Halema’uma’u crater was spewing out excessive amounts of volcanic gas therefore a large area and a lot of roads and walks were closed off to the public. In addition, however, I think the area around that crater is closed indefinitely anyway due to the possibility of further eruptions (in November 2008 it officially became the longest continuous eruption since 1924 after over a century of being a massive lava lake that overflowed and receeded on a regular basis).
Kilauea Iki crater with Halema’uma’u crater behindThese two volcanoes aren’t the tallest on the island – that’s Mauna Loa which makes up over half of the island’s land mass and when measured from its base on the sea floor is 56000 feet (about 27000 feet taller than Mt Everest). They are, however, the world’s youngest and most active and lava has flowed almost continuously since 1983 adding over 500 acres of new land! Although we didn’t get to see it, when the lava hits the sea the steam plume is apparently pretty spectacular.
We went for a walk through Thurston lava tube, half of which is lit up for everyone and the rest of which is left in the dark. The dark bit is still open for exploring but unfortunately we didn’t take a torch and were unable to keep going. A pity – it would have been pretty exciting!
Entrance to lava tube
Extension to lava tube - torch required!
We followed the lava tube with a hike down to the crater floor of Kilauea Iki. Apparently the molten lava is only about 70 metres below. In what we have decided is true Hilo style, it was wet and drizzly the whole way but at least it wasn’t cold.
Our next and final stop was the lava fields, where we were hoping to see some of the red stuff!
What a barren, desolate place.
Not exactly prime real estate, although it appears that some think it is.
This is where the lava has hit the sea, creating more land (of pure volcanic rock, I’m guessing...). Even without seeing the lava flowing it’s quite impressive, as the rock has so many twists and patterns in it like rope, and some still looks fluid, obviously setting before it had time to settle flat.
Putting our hands in to the cracks in the rock, we could feel hot air coming up.
We did end up seeing lava flowing, although it was a long way in the distance. Probably a good thing...