At the visitor centre we attend a park ranger informative
chat about the park. He is our most entertaining Parks guide to date. A local
Hilo ex-service man – he is erudite and humorous with a depth of knowledge. Personable
to children and adults alike – a good way to start the morning.
We visit Volcano House with its big picture windows
overlooking the Kīlauea crater to see our first views of the collapsed caldera.
There were over 600 collapses and 80,000 earthquakes in the four months
following the massive eruption in 2018.
Much of the park is closed due to instability. In fact, the beautiful Jaeger Museum is a thing of the past. Simply put, this building is being allowed to slide down into the new Halema’uma Crater 2,200 feet deep which is a collapse within the Kīlauea Caldera, previously all at a level of 220 feet deep. Subsequently there is no glowing molten lava visible anywhere on the island of Hawaii.
We walk the Crater Rim Trail, as far as we are able which is to the Kīlauea Military Camp – the remaining part of the trail, pre-2018, is closed off. We enjoy the Sulphur Banks, the steam vents and the general vegetation of the area.
The 20-mile drive of the ‘Chain of Craters’ road takes us
to the Holei Sea Arch.
Here the 1983-2018 lava flows interest us and we walk
south eastwards for 7km on these surreal lava beds along the Pacific Ocean
where the lava from the 2018 eruption crashed into the sea, at first forming a
new island and eventually an isthmus after additional lava flow.
The sea views are spectacular. We confirm our recent sightings of the Black Noddy.
Craters, cones, calderas – there is so much to
contemplate here. Naturally there is no vegetation whatsoever or very little
vegetation. It becomes a point of interest as visibly the older lava flows have
re-established themselves over time and one can clearly see the progression of
revegetation by looking at varying ages of lava flow and crater pits.
Unfortunately, invasive plant species have been
identified as a major problem, some of which are African grasses. Animals too are
a hindrance to preserving the endemic populations, such as the introduced mongoose
which eats the Hawaiian goose, aka, the Nene’s, eggs.
On our return journey we stop off at all the suggested
and interesting stops, in particular – Mauna Ulu with its lava flows from
1969-1974 and its gaping fissures.
Various craters and pits, Pauahi crater pit, Hiaka pit
from May 1973, Ko Oko Olau and Puhimau.
And at last we reach the Devastation trail where one has to walk the length of the entire road now due to the road’s instability, in order to get to a viewpoint, a little too close for comfort actually, of the collapsed caldera.
Here amongst all this devastation, in the surrounding
scrub, we spot what is possibly our last new bird of our adventurous trip, four
or more, rather raucous, Ring-necked Pheasants. Their lives, as do everyone’s
on the island, appear to continue as per normal despite living on an active
Perhaps Kīlauea will lay quietly for a while? However,
there are volcanoes on the island which are predicted as overdue in their
eruption cycle. There are five major volcanic peaks on Big Island. The highest
and largest is Mauna Loa a shield volcano, over 13,000 feet high, which is the
world’s largest volcano, taking up half of the Big Island land mass. Mauna Kea,
which is dormant and is also a shield volcano and from sea base to summit it measures
10,000 meters making it the tallest mountain in the world. The western-most Hualalai,
last erupted in the 1800’s, and with its eruption history showing an approximately
200-year period, is now overdue. Kohala in the north, is the oldest, and
Kīlauea the most active and most recent.
Supper at Ohelo next door to the local grocery store.
Martie orders the Kajiki, which is described as a succulent fish with a meaty
texture – ultimately, she is shamefaced as Bernie points out that it is a Blue
Marlin that she is enjoying. Despite trying and enjoying any meals that are
well-prepared she draws a line at this revered fish.
We return to chat to our hosts at Volcano Inn before turning in.