Fire on the Mountain!

Since June 27 of last year, a lava flow from Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island has made international news, with images and video of a slowly oozing lava consuming first the Pahoa Transfer Station, and then a long deserted home nearby. But that flow has slowed, currently posing no danger to property downslope, and the world’s attention has moved upslope to the Halema‘uma‘u Crater.

The level in the lava lake has been steadily rising in the vent on the crater floor, and it’s easily viewed from the overlook at the Jaggar Museum. The Pu’u O’o Vent is also active, but it is about ten miles away in an area of Hawaii Volcanos National Park that is not accessible to the public.

An observation camera trained on the Halema‘uma‘u Crater recently captured spectacular footage of a rockfall into the lava lake, which resulted in a tremendous explosion that blew large boulders sixty feet into the air onto the crater floor. It was an amazing spectacle, a stunning display of the unimaginable forces that have shaped the Earth. It made news around the world.
It’s no wonder, then, that hundreds are flocking daily (and nightly) to the Hawaii Volcanos Observatory’s Jaggar Museum to witness for themselves the volcano’s beauty and power. Hawaii Volcanos National Park is open 24 hours a day, and park rangers encourage those eager to view the lava to visit during off-peak hours. Before 5:00am and after 9:00pm are best for viewing without enduring a traffic jam that can stretch for two miles and take over an hour to get through.

And there is the matter of parking, and may have been redirected from the Jaggar Museum to park at the Kilauea Overlook. The fact that the recent activity at the crater coincided with National Park Week (April 18-26) also added to already heavy traffic congestion in the park.

As was seen with the recent explosion, which saw volcanic debris spattered into a closed portion of the closed Halema’uma’u overlook, volcanic activity poses a deadly threat to those who fail to heed park rangers’ advice and instruction and simple common sense. The activity is robust, and some lava has even flowed onto the crater floor.

With some careful planning and effort, the current activity at Kilauea Volcano offers visitors a chance to witness one of the most awe inspiring natural processes to be found anywhere on Earth. When making your plans for a visit, there are a number of resources that can help ensure a successful trip up the mountain.

The National Park Service, Hawaii Volcanos Observatory, and the U.S. Geological Survey are just three agencies monitoring activity around the clock, and they are best equipped to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information about volcanic (and traffic) activity in the park.

Posted by: Jamie Winpenny