Friday, June 08, 2007

Big Island - Volcanoes National Park

All of the Hawaiian Islands were formed millions of years ago by volcanoes. Simply put, there is a vent in the ocean floor that spews up lava and forms an island. Eventually new life settles on the lava; trees, grass, and species grow and multiply. As time goes by, the island drifts northwest, away from the vent, and the volcanoes that gave birth to the island become inactive. The ocean pounds the land and creates the cliffs and natural features that we associate with Hawaii. Eventually, the sea reclaims the island and it is lost forever.

Because of this process, the islands are in a diagonal line, northwest to southeast, from oldest to youngest. Kauai is the northern most and oldest island; the sea has had 6 million years to carve out its natural beauty. The Big Island is only a baby at 800,000 years old, and is the only Hawaiian island that still has an active volcano. At over twice the size of all the other Hawaiian islands combined, the Big Island is still growing right before our very eyes. On the eastern side of the island, Kilauea Volcano has been spouting lava consistently since 1983. Kilauea is the most active volcano in the entire world.

Volcanoes National Park encompasses Kilauea volcano, and Conor and I spent the whole day there last Sunday. There are several large lava craters formed by old eruptions. We did a hike through the bottom of one, the Kilauea Iki crater. The four mile hike took us through an ancient rain forest to a newly lava-paved crater and back. In another part of the park, we were able to actually walk through a lava tube.

Starting the hike through the Kilauea Iki crater. The hike starts in a rain forest and goes down through the center of the crater bottom, over lava and past steam vents.

The view into the Kilauea Iki crater from the top:

Getting to the bottom and starting out across the crater:

Panoramic view of the Kilauea Iki crater from the bottom:

Hiking through a lava tube. It's really dark in there when you turn off your flashlights.

This is a panoramic of Kilauea Caldera. A caldera is a huge crater. This one is next to the smaller Kilauea Iki crater, which we hiked through. The Kilauea Caldera also contains another larger crater inside of it, the Halema'uma'u crater. (the close up of Halema'uma'u is the first photo of this blog post).

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