Burning Farms

One of the most poignant scenes we witnessed was the many farms destroyed by the lava

Flow Front
The front of the fissure 8 flow approaches Kapoho Bay
We took our helicopter ride Sunday morning, June 3rd. At this point the large flow from fissure 8 had not yet reached the neighborhoods at Kapoho. What the flow was burning through were the many papaya orchards and flower growers found above the bay.

Houses are bad enough, seeing the farms in front of the lava flow was worse. I found myself looking through the telephoto lens at the neat greenhouses, the orchards green in the morning sunlight. The wide flow front was in the process of destroying so many farms, remorselessly moving through the neat rows of papaya trees.

Orchid Plantation Inc.
The greenhouses of Orchid Plantation Inc. disappearing under the lava.
I am aware of how much a farmer puts into the land… Sweat, blood, heart and soul. I look at the photos and I see immaculate operations… Well maintained buildings, no weeds around the structures, the pitiless lava flow advancing. Each scene that appeared in the camera viewfinder was gut-wrenching.

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To See The Eruption

How to get a good look at this eruption? Not a trivial question. The neighborhoods involved are under mandatory evacuation orders enforced by police and National Guard checkpoints. Quite a few people have been arrested and cited while trying to get closer to the lava.

Fissure 8 Lava Fountain
The lava fountain at fissure 8 in Leilani Estates throwing lava hundreds of feet in the air on June 3rd, 2018

This is the first major change in the eruptions of Kilauea in decades. This eruption features phenomena seen in the old documentaries, lava fountains hundreds of feet high, huge flows cutting through the rainforest. Things I have always wanted to see.

As much as I would like to visit, we have simply not tried to get into lower Puna. It is just not pono to interfere with residents frantically trying to salvage whatever they can ahead of the flows, or emergency services already overburdened with the ongoing situation.

Two legal ways exist for visitors to get a closer look… Fly or float. Either take a helicopter ride over the eruption, or take one of the lava boats to an ocean entry.

The boats have resumed tours, but active ocean entries have been sporadic, running for a week, then stopping. As of Monday morning the lava has re-entered the ocean at Kapoho Bay, and is again view-able from the water. The boat runs also involve a fairly long run all the way from Hilo harbor. The boat ramp the tours once used at Pohoiki now cut off by the flows.

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No Doors

A helicopter ride over an active volcano… With no doors.

In mid-July deb and I took a helicopter flight over Kilauea with Paradise Helicopter. A lot of fun! I took all of the material we shot in our helicopter flight and assembled as a bit of video. A lot more view-able this way, more fun than a pile of images sitting on a disk.

On the other had I think I discovered all of the things that can go wrong when shooting from a helicopter with no doors! The wind and vibration is rough, making even the wide angle video of a GoPro jump about. Video shot on the DLSR’s was useless. I also discovered that helicopter blades passing in front of the Sun gives the GoPro Hero 4 Black exposure fits, with black ripples in the image. Thanks to image stabilization and fast shutter speeds the still photos are fairly good.

Seated in a steeply banking helicopter with nothing between me and the molten lava a couple hundred feet below is a thrill I will not soon forget. You can smell the sulfur and feel the heat. Hopefully a little of that comes through in the video.

No Doors

No Doors from Andrew Cooper on Vimeo

A Helicopter with No Doors

I had promised Deb a helicopter ride months ago. It is about time to deliver on that promise. Just waiting for the volcano to do something interesting. Will a new lava flow work?

The currently active Puʻu Oʻo vent on Kilauea
The currently active Puʻu Oʻo vent on Kilauea
Paradise Helicopter has a doors off Volcanoes and Waterfalls Extreme tour I really wanted to try. I have always been frustrated when shooting through a window on an aircraft, reflections or scuffed plastic windows always seem to spoil the shot. Not having a window, much less a door to shoot through was a huge incentive.

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