Sunday, April 12, 2009

Our Kilauea volcano adventure

We all definitely have those “larger than life” moments, where something is so surreal you can’t believe you’re actually alive and experiencing what’s happening. This was for sure one of my moments. But before I begin, let me back up the train a bit…. The other night, when Blaine and I were visiting the volcano viewing area, we were a little disappointed. The two of us had high expectations of exploding lava so close you could poke it with a stick! (so we were told) So when we arrived and were about a mile away from the action we were bumming. I was listening in on a conversation between the women behind us and a park ranger talking about why we had to be so far away. It was quite interesting really. He was explaining how the volcano conditions change daily and just a few months ago the actual lava flows were just beyond where we were currently standing, but it changed paths so quick and the ground just beyond us was still hot and unstable. After hearing that I gave up the hopes of seeing the pictures I had in my head come to fruition. Blaine was far from satisfied, and as we were walking back we came to a photo both of just amazing lava pictures so close you could touch it. Blaine HAD to find out how he got so close. So we went and started talking to the photographer. He is one of only 3 people on the island who has total access and can freely go beyond the barricades. One, because he knows the park rangers and two because the flow is actually on private land (the people who owned it BEFORE the lava flow took their homes) and he has permission from those land owners. To go wonder out on your own would be insanely stupid for several reasons: 1) being un-educated about what you need to be looking out for could easily kill you. 2) you can get fined $5,000! neither of which I would like to be a part of. Soooo with that said, Bruce (the photographer) took a liking to us for some reason and actually offered to take us out! He rarely ever takes other photographers out, so this was a once in a lifetime experience. Blaine about soiled himself with excitement, while I was actually already in panic mode. We had to meet Bruce at 3:30 am to begin the hike out, which meant we had to leave the other side of the island at 1:30 am. Blaine couldn’t sit still he was bursting with joy as I have only witnessed about 3 times in 10 years of knowing him.
After about an hour of walking I really started to get scared. The smell of burning sulfur was so intense it burned my throat. The lava field got rougher and more like a climb then a hike the further we went. We stopped for a moment, and Bruce told us we had to hold our breath for 30 seconds as we crossed the weakest part, which was actually the first of the lava rivers heading to the ocean and could have been anywhere from 2 inches to 20 feet below the surface. We walked through the clouds of sulfur one foot in front of the other, lightly and quickly. It was super intense to say the least! I couldn’t turn back now though every nerve in my body was screaming RUN AWAY! The two of them are talking about how great and powerful God is and how thankful they were for the opportunity to see such a display while all I think of is “ye though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death!” “fire and brimstone” and how much this is the closest I ever want to get to hell!

Here are the first of the photos. The truth is this was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Talking photos was the only thing keeping me distracted from the fact that my heart was beating out of my chest!

The lava is actually creating refined black sand right before our eyes. The shoreline grew about 15 feet out 10 feet high and for the distance of about 70 feet a crossed while we were out there in just a few hours.

Need I say more…

For those of you who don’t know Blaine very well, he has absolutely no fear mechanisms in his entire body. No flashing “DANGER!!” signs, no heart palpitations, nothing that would signal him to run from imminent danger. He’s like those people who have nerve damage and don’t have any idea they have their hand on a hot stove. I am amazed he is still alive (most of which I take the credit for, mind you). It is crazy how relaxed he can be, and so was Bruce! I was watching his every move looking for a change in body posture signaling the “run like hell” cue. As if I would even know what direction!

The people in this boat are even dumber then we are. The water surrounding them is 200+ degrees! It would only take a small piece to break off and create a boiling tidal wave, not to mention it is raining sulfuric acid from the cloud they are under!

These photos make it seem like we are super far away from the danger, but in reality what you are looking at they call the “bench” its like an unstable landslide. At any moment any or all of it could break off into the ocean creating an enormous explosion from the hot lava hitting the cold ocean, launching SUV size (on the small end) chunks of molten lava hundreds of feet in the air and raining down fire from the sky for thousands of yards in every direction. They call it a bench collapse, and for the last few months they have been happening often and with little notice. I kept listening for the creaking and feeling for the quake but when it comes down to it, unless you were a mile back at the viewing area you’d be a gonner.

This is the start of the more active explosions; I stopped taking pictures because I was in just in too much panic to think! The splatters were thrown 80 feet in the air and coming within 20 feet of Blaine and Bruce, I on the other hand fled at the thought of burning to death, maybe I am weird or something.

This is one of those week parts over the functioning lava tubes. The lava is rushing at about 20mph beneath my feet. You can tell its fresh because the sand is so new. It crushes under your feet and crunches like charcoal.

In this shot we are super far away and you can see where just a regular explosion littered the surface with lava chunks.

Here the lava was moving fast and just flowed over these rocks incasing them forever.

These two photos show the weakest part we had to cross. Bruce told us a story about how a spot just like this one caved in and created a lava river, a few hours after he had been walking on it.

A cooled lava splatter.

There are tiny needle like fibers that split when they cool and are like fiber glass and give a nice splinter.

What you DON’T want to happen while your there.

Believe it or not, the lava minerals can be quite beautiful and create rainbows like an oil slick.

This is a hole that was created by the lava burning a tree in the middle and leaving it wide open after cooling.

This is another type of lava that is the fast moving kind. It is already generating life and growing lichen over its surface.

And finally, back to the road where this whole mess began :)


Shauna Roughley said...

I just discovered your blog (through your wedding photography blog) and I love it! This is exactly the kind of thing my husband would love to do.
Great writing & great photos - I will be checking back often!

ita said...

Your experience is very interesting. The experience of buying dozens of pairs of shoes for poor children. Also experience of watching another beautiful atmosphere in the area of Isla, Mujeres, Mexico. I assess what you are doing is truly humanitarian act which has a very high value and needs to be developed in other countries. Thank you for your photos are very nice and charming.