eat. Sort of. Well, we did eat some bananas. But more about that later.
I’m now back in Hilo with my parents (Robin will arrive on the 17th). My mom and dad are lava junkies. The first time they visited the Big Island—back in 1983—they had the wondrous fortune to arrive in Hilo when Pu‘u ‘O‘o was fountaining. Upon being informed of this fact, they dropped their bags on the hotel floor, rushed to the airport to hire a private plane, flew up and circled the fountain for about a half an hour gawking in amazement at the fiery plume, and that was that. My folks were addicted. They returned to the Big Island time-after-time (on a few occasions for several months, when my dad was on sabbatical), and would think nothing of hiking 20 miles to see hot flowing lava. Mom and Dad passed this addiction on to Robin and me, which is one of the reasons we now spend so much time here.
Well, the sad fact is that my parents are now in their early-80s, and not as strong or agile as they once were. They can no longer hike for hours over sharp, uneven lava fields to get to the active flow. As a result, they hadn’t seen any hot lava for a couple of years.
So you can imagine our glee when our neighbor Don told us the other day that the flow was crossing Highway 130! (See map here.) Once again, there was a drive-in lava flow! The next morning we jumped in the car and dashed down to Kalapana. And there it was—literally at the end of the road:
As it crossed the highway, the lava ignited in dancing flames, due to the high oil-content of the asphalt. A bit like a scene from Dante’s Inferno.
The usual zanies were on the spot, of course. The crazy guy who has to prove how cool he is sitting inches from 2000°F lava:
(He didn’t stay there long, I can assure you.) Here’s the same guy (who lives nearby), with his donkey, Heidi:
This fellow tried to get his dog to sit for a photo, but the dog (Pohaku—a real sweetie) was not too keen on the idea:
This was a pahoehoe (pronounced pah-hoi-hoi) flow, a basaltic form of lava that forms ropey shapes as if flows and cools. Here’s what it looked like in the areas not covered by oily asphalt:
And here’s a view closer up:
I love how the lava has broken through the cooled crust and is oozing out in this shot:
And voilà a small molten pool. The yellow bits are the hottest:
In this shot you can see a wedge that has just popped up, a bit like an iceberg (except the opposite).
After about 45 minutes standing around staring in awe at the flow I remembered that we had the two chairs we had just bought two days earlier in the trunk. I fetched them, and Mom and Dad relaxed and continued to enjoy the view. A perfect way to christen the new chairs, eh?
This is where the aforementioned bananas come into the story. You can see one in my Mom’s left hand. I had one as well, and after we consumed them, I threw the peels onto the flow. It took about 30 seconds, but they did ignite:
A perfect Hawai‘ian morning.
Aloha from the Big Island!