How would you feel if you walked on a volcano and could see the steam rising from the crater? Yeah, I was pretty stoked, too. We went up to Kilauea to see the main crater and hike around the lava flows.
We started out the trip by going to the visitors’ center and gaining our bearings before heading up to the main crater. Once we got to the top we went to the Thomas A. Jaggar Volcano Research Center and read through the exhibits and ooh’d and aah’d at the various rock samples. We also had a bit too much fun with a sample seismograph and jumped up and down to make large “earthquakes” appear in ink on the paper roll. After that we went outside and marveled at the steam rising from the crater. There was no visible lava, but there was a steam plume that reached up and mixed with the clouds. It was quite impressive.
Once we had finished at the caldera we drove down and did a group exercise at the Puhimau Hotspot. Here we put thermometers into the soil to test and see how hot it was in certain areas and try to correlate the soil temperature with the death of the vegetation in the roughly 30-acre area. Our research was less than conclusive, but it seemed to hold up that the heat killed off the plants. Here we saw huge sink holes with steam pouring out of them. Slightly less impressive, but just as interesting was seeing tree stumps with steam coming out of them.
We tried a short hike after this but had to turn back quickly due to the fact that there was too much vog in the area (vog is volcanic fog that consists of various gases). At that time there was much Sulfur dioxide in the air and many of us began to cough and feel our throats tightening, so we took our inhalers (okay, I took my inhaler) and we turned back.
Our last venture of the day was to the edge of Kilauea Iki, a smaller crater at the top of the mountain. We are going to attempt to hike down into this crater tomorrow, if the Sulfur dioxide levels even out and we can breathe. At this point we’ll have to play it by ear.
Okay, I lied. That wasn’t our last venture. We also followed the Chain of Craters Road down to the ocean and saw the massive lava fields that have been left since the island formed. We trekked down the road for a mile to where it was closed due to lava covering the road during the 1983 explosion. This was quite fresh and had just begun to have vegetation growing on it and then only ferns were around (ferns are the first plant species to grow on newly formed lava flows).
At this we returned home via a coffee shop due to the requests of many of our group. We rounded out the night with a viewing of Inception and then headed to bed. Now I must sleep because we have an early start tomorrow. Aloha!