Hawai`i - Kilauea
The first look at the caldera (the entire brown area, not just the smoky part). As an active volcano, it changes year to year and certainly decade to decade. For example, in the 1950's when Kilauea had a major eruption, the caldera was twice as deep as it is now, having been filled in by hundreds of feet of ash since then. The hot spot has also changed over time, resulting in the current active crater-within-a-crater. The fun of Kilauea is that it's not far above sea level, so unlike Mauna Loa the common person can come take a look.
On the way to the next viewing area, a steam pit. Rainwater makes its way through the plants and soil and gradually seeps into the pit, coming into contact with heated rocks a short distance above the magma bubble, and races out again as steam. Some of these pits also have sulfurous gases escaping, which means there is a direct vent into the bubble.
Another vantage point of the moonlike landscape. Unlike on other islands and other parts of this island, nothing is able to grow inside the caldera due to the constant volcanic activity below the surface and volcanic deposits above. The western side of Kilauea is responsible for vog, volcanic smog that drifts westward over toward Kona and makes life miserable for residents on the south and west sides of the island. It has gotten better since the new vent opened in March 2008, but there is a constant brown haze that is sure to cause long-term health hazards to the residents.
Location, location, location.
From the Jaggar Museum is the best view you can get of the older Kilauea vent, because the road is closed west of there due to the hazardous voggy fumes. The scenery from this side of the crater is beautiful, provided the winds don't shift (happens a couple of times a year) and blow everything over Hilo.
Descending the path to the Thurston Lava Tube on the east side of Kilauea. It wasn't cut by the lava through rock, but instead flowing lava hardened on top due to atmospheric contact while the stuff in the middle kept moving. Once it was done, it left behind caves and tubes like this, although most (like in the third photo, just below Thurston) are too small for humans. The Tube was closed when I visited due to some issue on the route out the far side of the cave, something like stairs missing, but that was no reason to close the tube itself! Once I saw a tour group go on in, I followed.
Looking out and into the dimly lit tube. The yellow lights are meaningless, because nothing lives in there - why not use white and make it safer?
Farther down the tube but not to the far end before I turned around. Flashlights are recommended despite the cave lighting.
More craters on Chain of Craters Road
Kilauea's offshoot, the Kalapana Lava Flow
More Big Island photos
Out of Kilauea on HI Route 11
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