Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

Burning down the night (Hawaiian-style)

Getting to where the Kilauea lava flow meets the Pacific isn't as easy as you might think. First you need to find an old road that leads out into the lava fields left by an eruption in the 1990s. It's a strange road, with sections of good two lane blacktop connected by winding bouncy single lane track. That's where you're driving over the lava, where the flow rolled over the land and hid the old road.

Finally you're at the car park, and backing into a spot. It's still a fair way to the entrance to the viewing area, but that's fine, as you'll need to buy a flashlight from one of the vendors for the return trek. From the entrance to the viewing area is about a mile, but it's a mile over lava flow - rough new rock that crumbles beneath your feet, and undulates unevenly in its pillows, ribbons and sheets. There are plenty of cracks and bubbles, so you need to follow the yellow duct tape markings carefully.

All the while you can see where you're going, as a pillar of steam rises high into the sky.

Signs of eruption

The viewing area is about 1/2 a mile from the actual flow, and it's worth getting there early to get a good position in the crowds. We were perhaps a little later than optimum, but still managed to get a decent view.

The black lava rolls into the sea, where the land falls away in sharp cliffs. There's hot rock under the boiling sea, and a line of steam shows just how much of the flow is under the water.

Fire and water

As it gets darker, the white steam cloud begins to take on a reddish tinge, the reflected glow of the molten rock. Occasionally you'll see sparks as water flashes into high pressure steam and a section of black cool rock falls away, exposing the glowing lava below.

Fire and water

It's when it gets dark that the show begins, red clouds of steam rising from the orange lava, bright against the black sky.

I'd taken along my new GorillaPod flexible tripod, and lay down on the lava to get the best angle. Manual focus got me the view I wanted, and a ten second timer made sure that there was as little vibration as possible. The resulting long exposures captured much of the feel of the evening - bright gouts of steam and the occasional burst of hot lava from a steam explosion.

You can see the trajectory of an explosion in the first of the images - I wouldn't have liked to have been anywhere near the flow when that happened!

Elements of Eruption

Elements of Eruption

While we watched the main event on the coast, higher on the hills the thin rock over the lava flow was starting to crack, and golden rock was flowing out across the hillside - setting fire to trees and vegetation. I wrapped the GorillaPod around a warning sign, and fired up another long exposure.

Burning volcanoes give you so much more.

Kilauea, Hawaii
June 2009
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