Monday, 20 March 2017

Halemaumau Crater, Kilauea in Hawaii

Halemaʻumaʻu Crater is a pit crater located close to caldera of Kīlauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The approximately circular crater floor is 770 meters x 900 m and is 83 m below the floor of Kīlauea caldera. Halemaʻumaʻu means "house of the `ama`u fern" is home to Pele, goddess of fire and volcanoes, according to the traditions of Hawaiian mythology. This place is burned like another planet with constantly changing scenery especially the view of Halemaumau crater at night is stunning. Pictures can't begin to capture how magnificent it is. The crater is presently active, encompassing a lava lake. The current vent inside Halemaʻumaʻu crater first erupted explosion on the night of April 9, 2008 that widened the hole by an additional 15 to 30 feet, ejected debris over some 200 ft and further damaged the overlook as well as scientific monitoring instruments.

The present lava inside the vent is changing from 20 to 150 meters below the crater floor. The molten lava in the vent, known as the Overlook Crater, became directly visible for the first time from the Jaggar Museum overlook at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory; the lava started spilling over the rim of the Overlook Crater and onto the floor of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, ultimately adding approximately 30 feet of fresh lava to the crater floor. The walls of the crater become destabilized by heating, weathering, earthquakes and loss of support. They fall into the lava causing degassing of the lava, the exsolution of gases happens rapidly, leading to the explosion. Usually, the lava within the lake is 100 feet to 200 feet below the rim, but recently the magma chamber that flows into the lava lake has shown increased inflation, suggesting that lava is being driven into the lake from an underground chamber below.

The lake level has since remained close to the rim, with an additional minor overflow event in October 2016. Therefore, early eruptions were recorded by oral history. One large eruption in 1790 killed several people, and left footprints in hardened ash of some Hawaiians killed by pyroclastic flows. However, the crater bottom was covered with lava, and the south-west and northern parts of it were one vast flood of burning matter, in a state of enormous ebullition, rolling to and fro its "fiery surge" and flaming billows.

The Crater Rim is not paved, so wear close-toed shoes with solid grip. Once you reach the overlook, you’ll be peering into the volcano goddess Pele's sanctuary. Though her flows are plunging into the ocean somewhere else, her home is in Halema'uma'u. Moreover, cultural ceremonies are held and offerings are sometimes left for her on the crater rim.  It was like gazing at the sun at noon-day, except that the glare was not quite so white. At uneven distances all around the shores of the lake were closely white-hot chimneys or hollow drums of lava, four or five feet high, and up through them were bursting stunning sprays of lava-gouts and gem spangles, some white, some red and some golden--a ceaseless bombardment, and one that fascinated the eye with its unapproachable splendor. The meager distant jets, sparkling up through an intervening gossamer veil of vapor, seemed miles away; and the further the curving ranks of fiery fountains receded, the more fairy-like and beautiful they appeared.