Inside the Most Active Volcano Today

The whole group in front of Kilauea Iki

That’s right! We hiked into Kilauea Iki today. This is the smaller, less active crater on Kilauea. This means that instead of breathing high levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) we were breathing clean air and standing on top of 300 feet of solid rock. Under that 300 feet is about 100 feet of molten magma, but we tried not to think about that too hard. We started the hike into the crater at about 10:15am and took only an hour to hike the 2-3 miles into the crater. Luckily we had a breeze and cool morning air on our side. Once we got into the crater we were greeted by rough lava flows and harsh sun. I would like to say, for posterity, that I was told many times to slow down and wait for the group (my sister will be proud of that).

We stop for a lecture at the site of the 1959 eruption

We took breaks every now and then to have a lecture on the rock around us and various elements that make up Kilauea Iki. We also paused here to eat some lunch and marvel at the immense expanse of the lava and the “bathtub ring” that was left when Iki filled up in 1959. The crater itself was originally a full mountain but it blew its top about 400 years ago, leaving the crater at 800 feet deep. In 1959 Iki erupted again and filled the crater to about 450 feet, but 50 feet of that drained back out leaving this “bathtub ring.” But it is incredible to think about how there was 400 feet of molten lava where we were sitting.

We eventually made it through to the other side of the crater and hiked up the steep wall (in under 20 minutes, I might add). At this point the students went and explored the Thurston Lava Tube while our professor and his wife went to retrieve the car. The tube was a lot shorter than I expected it to be, but it was still cool, seeing as how I had never been in a cave before.

Studying at the sulfur banks

Our last trip for the day in the park was to the sulfur banks. We got really lucky and the wind was blowing away from us so we were able to study the sulfur without having to hold our noses. It was fascinating how the sulfur, gypsum, hematite and opal had formed on top of old basalt columns and broken down the basalt so that it was no longer recognizable. The amount of steam pouring out of the earth was also quite amazing.

At this point we went and had lunch/dinner at the Lava Rock Cafe in Volcano Village before heading home. That was the day and tomorrow we’re heading out to the Botanical Gardens! Can’t wait to see them and share pictures with y’all.

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