Lava Lake Panorama

One of the things I remembered to do on my second visit to the lava lake was to shoot a panorama set of the lake surface. The result has been assembled here, click on the image to get a full sized version for viewing..

The lake has a number of interesting features most visitors miss when viewing the active vent. The remnant of an older vent can be seen as the rough area on the far side, while on the near side is the raft or floating island that remains from the previous lava lake earlier in the year. Both of these features appear to be floating as they rise along with the lake level.

According to the latest USGS report the lake is approximately eight meters (26 feet) higher at the western end near the active vent than the eastern end. The level has risen about 51 meters (167 feet) since this eruption stated on September 29th for a total volume of 19.9 million cubic meters (5.3 billion gallons) of new lava. An interesting raised edge is visible along the active margin with the thick inactive crust that has formed over the last month.

A panorama of the lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu
A panorama of the lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu, click to view the full size image

Yet Another Volcano Run

Once was not enough, I had to do it again. The allure of lava too much I planned yet another run across island in the middle of the night to see the lava at Kilauea.

The western vent spilling lava into the lake at Halemaʻumaʻu
The western vent spilling lava into the lake at Halemaʻumaʻu

This time Deb would come along, mistakenly agreeing to to 0130 alarm clock and possibly regretting it as she climbed out of bed. Thus we drove through the night passing through the park gates a little before 4am.

A larger crowd greeted us this time. The parking lot was lamost half full and there were more folks passing us on the walk out to the viewpoint.

This trip would feature a bit of moonlight over the caldera rather than the dark skies of two weeks ago, a quarter moon in the eastern sky. I had hoped for a few thin moonlit clouds to use in the compositions, but this did not happen. The morning was completely cloud free over the caldera, and nearly calm, the plume rising striaght up from the lava.

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Volcano Run

The usual plan… A 2am departure from the house, a 4am arrival at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, at the lava while it is still full dark, enjoy the show through the dawn, then go find breakfast.

Lava Fountain
A lava fountain at the western vent in Halemaumau, Oct 16, 2021

Exiting the vehicle after the long drive I was greeted by a serene silence and bright stars. Orion and the Pleiades were bright and directly overhead. I had to pause and just breathe in the damp forest smells, gazing upwards to the heavens.

There were another half dozen vehicles in the large parking lot at Devastation Trail. I was not going to be alone at the viewpoint, but it was not going to be crowded either. Reports online have mentioned large crowds in the evening, with even the Park Service recommending a morning visit.

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A Changing Landscape

A tale of two lava lakes, of a landscape altered in way so dramatic it is hard to comprehend.

We think of solid rock being the ultimate in permanency, something about the world that should never change, at least in the span of a few months. Geologic change takes thousands of years, not less than one, it just seems wrong when this rule is violated.

Places we once stood, or parked a car, a hiking trail across a plain of solid rock… All gone in a dramatic upheaval. A parking lot the lies upon a block of rock the size of a supertanker, sitting hundreds of feet below where I once parked the car. Change is the reality of an active volcano.

The glow from a lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu lights the clouds prior to the May 2018 eruptions
The glow from a lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu lights the clouds prior to the May 2018 eruptions

I have seen change on this scale once before when Mt. St. Helens removed a mountain top that stood upon the horizon of childhood memory. Here at Kilauea the change was a bit slower, but no less dramatic.

I look across that caldera and note the places that are the same, the places that are gone. I may understand what has happened and how, but still some parts of my mind insist that this just cannot be true… Solid rock should not disappear or crumble like a cookie.

The glowing pit of Halemaʻumaʻu with the new lava lake
The glowing pit of Halemaʻumaʻu with the new lava lake

The return of lava to the crater seems like a return of normalcy. There was lava here for years, there should be lava here. Perhaps the lava will cover over that yawning pit that should not be. Fill the yawning chasm that affronts my senses so.

Perhaps, if the crater continues to fill, flooded to the rim with new lava, a new caldera floor will form, the cycle complete. Perhaps it may be possible to once again walk across the floor of Kilauea Caldera.