Friday, May 3, 2013

Hawaii Pics #5: Lava

I was thinking hard about what my next category of pictures should be. I've already covered animals and vegetables. So why not move on to minerals? Or more specifically, a mix of aluminum, nickel, silica, potassium, sodium, iron, and magnesium. (Talking about lava here!)

Chris and I had a few opportunities to see lava while we were in Hawaii, all on the Big Island. It's currently the only island with active lava flows.

And man was it ever amazing. I wish I could fully illustrate how incredible it was to see this glowing viscous liquid oozing forth, creating new land. I mean, we were literally watching the earth form. Craziness. I tried my best to capture the experience with my camera, but obviously I couldn't capture the heat rising from the ground as we got closer to the flows, or the utter silence as you stood in the middle of all these acres of lava rock, where no animals wish to live. And of course, I can't demonstrate the strange experience of hiking over the lava rocks, the feeling like you're walking on broken glass, or the sound of rocks skidding out in front of your shoes and falling down a huge rift in the rocks.

In short, pictures don't do lava justice. So my recommendation is to buy a plane ticket and head over there at some point in your life. Worth it.

But back to what I can show you. Pictures.

Ok, ok. I didn't take this picture. We didn't actually see this type of lava, which is called pāhoehoe lava. This picture is from where we were, though. Just not when we were there.

It's just that we saw a lot of lava ROCK before seeing lava flowing, so I didn't want you to get bored with my pictures of rocks and think I was holding out on you. I swear, there are some really good lava pictures in this post. And if you're really patient, there may even be a video or two. ;-)

At First Sight
We get to the Big Island, see some gorgeous rain forests, go swimming in a pretty park that's shaded by big trees ... basically, we're experiencing the Hawaii most people imagine when we say we went to the islands.

But then, on our second day, we're driving south toward Kalapana Village and we see this ...

Kind of looks like someone spilled asphalt on their lawn, right? Well, a whole lotta asphalt ...

It was so crazy to go from lush rainforest and tropical coastline to this virtual wasteland. And this was just a random spot on the side of the road, not even the main attraction.

The main attraction is far back in this picture. Can you see the plumes of smoke/steam rising of the side of that mountain? Well, that's not a mountain, it's a volcano. And that's where the lava is flowing.

Before setting off on our guided hike to see the lava, we made a stop at this little black sand beach, which used to be much larger. It was covered in lava in the late 80s, along with most of Kalapana Village, turning most of the coastline into jagged lava rock cliffs.

The rocks were difficult to walk on, even with shoes. You couldn't really sit on it or rest your legs or hands against it. It's all too sharp and jagged.

So after the volcano wiped out the village in the late 80s, believe it or not, some people have started to rebuild their homes ON TOP of the lava rock. The land is still all privately owned, even though everyone's original homes are under the lava now. A local told us the families still pay taxes on their land.

Eventually, we struck out with our guide to cross the barren wasteland. It was a two-hour trek to the lava flow in the beating sun with absolutely no shade. Luckily, we timed it so we only had to hike out in the sun. The sun set while we were at the lava flows, so we hiked back at night by flashlight.


The formations the lava made as it cooled were incredible. You could really see the movement of the flows, now hardened and immobile.

Watch your step!

Exhausted and thirsty, we finally made it to the lava. There was a spot where it was flowing out of the ground and into the ocean. This was our first encounter with lava and already we were pretty impressed just to see all the steam/smoke and the orange glow.

The longer we watched, the more entranced we became. See that spout of lava on the right? It was flowing as if being poured from a pitcher. A perfect drizzle.

It was really spectacular to see the waves collide with the lava and send up a huge burst of steam.

And now for some proof that we were there and I'm not just fooling you again. haha

At night, it was really cool because you could see the orange glow so much better. Plus the steam/smoke reflected the glow and appeared bright orange as well.

After that spectacle, we weren't sure anything on earth existed that could top it. But then our guide told us we were going to hike up the volcano and see the lava flowing out of the ground, which is called a surface flow. Apparently it hadn't been flowing in weeks, but we completely lucked out and it was flowing like crazy the night we were out there.

What was so amazing about this is that we could walk right up to the lava. There wasn't a lot of steam or smoke or vog coming up, so you could literally get close enough to touch it. Insane.

The lava pooled up on the ground and moved as if it were an organic creature. At one point I was definitely reminded of the 1980s flick, The Blob. haha

Here's what it looked like with a little light shining on it (from the flash).

At one point, we were watching the flow slow and basically stop moving forward. We thought it was stopping, but then suddenly a big chunk or hardened rock cracked open and the lava began rushing out. It was incredible. (Have I said that already? haha)

And a little more proof of our daring adventure. Mere feet from the lava.

Now for the video!

This is back where the lava was flowing into to ocean. SOOO amazing. I can't stress that enough.

And here's a video of the lava on the surface. You can actually hear the rocks crackling from the heat in the video. There was this constant popping noise the whole time we were over there. Nature is amazing. :-)