06 December, 2008

Bloglet: Hawaii is bigger than it was three hours ago

And I was there to see it happen.

Actually, this is occurring continuously almost all the time here. The reason being, lava from Kilauea is flowing into the ocean and moving the shoreline outward.

Translation: Hawaii is getting bigger.

When I came here four years ago, this was happening in a slightly different location, several miles south of the current flow. At that time, viewing the lava flow required a fairly long 1.5 mile hike over A'a lava fields. A'a is a type of flow that results in jagged shards and fragments and piles of lava rock, that look like you either bulldozed a lava road, or detonated a lava bomb. Walking on it is slow and treacherous. And if you want to really see the lava, it means hiking it at night with flashlight.

So last time, I did not get very close at all. Probably two miles away. But you could see orange in the dark hillsides from the path the lava flow was taking.

This time is a different story. The current flow is several miles north, and reasonably close to the end of the existing (remaining) road. The walk to the nearest viewing point is less than a half mile. And, importantly, it is on a path of Paho'eho'e lava (obviously referring to cooled, older flow remnants). This type of lava flow is characterized by smooth flow patterns that look almost like if you poured molasses down the hillside and it hardened. Much easier walking.

So we headed down a little before sunset and were immediately amazed from a distance, by the giant plume of steam and gases coming from where the lava was pouring into the ocean. As it grew dark, orange tones became more ad more evident, and eventually you could clearly see spattering splashing orange lava - molten earth! - in and around the giant cloud, which was propagating eastward, away from the island. About a hundred people were gathered, trying to capture the moment with their cameras. It is difficult to capture.

Unfortunately it is not allowed to go any closer than we were, which I would estimate was between 400-600 meters. And the terrain was such that the flow down the hill from the origin (which I think is Pu'u O'o Crater) was hidden by the hill, so you could see the smoke, but not the orange of the flow on the hillside.

But this was still amazing, seeing this timeless, primordial, true version of "creationism". It is no wonder that humans worshipped the volcanos like gods, and made sacrifices, and created entire mythologies around them.

-- Post From My iPhone

1 comment:

  1. what is the erosion rate of the island, due to runoff, waves crashing against beaches and export of beach sand for sale to other places that seek pristine beaches? you have to subtract those from the (rate)(volume) of nascent lava deposition. and are you counting just the Big Island, or the whole hawai'ian chain? ...very complicated. :)