An offering to Pele, the volcano goddess, sitting on the rim of Halema’uma’u Crater. No lava, unfortunately. That would’ve been totally neat.
Anyhow. I drove 110 miles, shot 315 photos (1.1GB), deleted 230 of them on the first pass, uploaded 24 (85 MB), used four lenses, hiked about three miles, and got sunburnt. And it was enormous fun, in a geology-nerdy sort of way. No googlemap, but read on for more – and here’s the flickr photoset. You’ll probably want to browse the photos while you read.
Kilauea Crater itself is not where the lava is these days. The Pu’u O’o vent opened up on January 3rd, 1983, and that’s taken a lot of the pressure out from underneath Kilauea itself – to the point where you can now drive down into the crater, or hike across an area that, 25 years ago, was a lake of lava. (From the top of the crater rim, you can see exactly where the lava stopped; it’s rather impressive to see how fine the line is between devastation and… what’s the opposite of devastation?
The Sulphur Bluffs (their spelling, not mine) are an interesting feature only about 500 metres from the visitor’s centre at the park entrance. They’re a collection of steam vents – holes in the ground where groundwater re-emerges as steam, after being superheated by the magma. The steam carries sulfur gas with it, which leaves some spectacular deposits of sulfur crystals around the vents.
Such as this one:
Skip the Jaggar Museum (named after an early volcano researcher, no relation to Mick) – it’s not bad, but there’s not really anything there worth seeing.
You’ll probably be driving counterclockwise around Crater Rim Drive, and if you pass the Jaggar Museum, you’ll soon descend into the crater, to the edge of the crater within a crater, Halema’uma’u. This is where people leave offerings to Pele – such as the one in the first photo above.
Further around, you come to Chain of Craters Road. This road used to run all the way down to the coast, and you could drive all the way back to Hilo, with spectacular views on the way down. You can still drive down there – but in the mid-80s, lava overran the road (and destroyed a small town or two in the process. The joys of living on an active volcano). These days, the volcano is relatively placid, and all the lava is spewing into the sea in one place – at the steam plume in the far distance of this photo.
You can hike across the lava beds to a point where you can safely view the steam plume – but hiking three to six miles return, across black rock in 35-degree heat, didn’t sound too appealing. I ended up shooting a few last photos from the point where the road ends. Maybe I’ll have to come back sometime.