Pu'u O'o eruption 1983

Robert and Barbara Decker

Maps and Drawings by Rick Hazlett

Copyright 1992

ISBN: 0-9621019-5-8

Print copies of this booklet may obtained from the publisher: Double Decker Press; 4087 Silver Bar Road, Mariposa, CA 95338. Put on the web with the permission of the copyright owners and publisher.

Illustrations relative to active volcanism are included as links. Other illustrations in the print text are not included in this web page. Links to illustrations not refered to in the print text are marked with a bullet. Text references to omitted illustrations have been deleted from this web page.






Welcome to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This book is designed to guide visitors on a driving tour of the major sights in this fascinating land of volcanoes, rain forest, desert and seacoast. It is planned for the reader who has about two days for a visit, with the first day a tour of Crater Rim Drive and the second a trip down Chain of Craters Road to the ocean. Since total driving distances are not great (about 60 miles inside the park), it is possible to make a whirlwind tour in one day if your time is limited. On the other hand, a stay of more than two days at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is much better. On page 46 you will find suggested hikes that range from a half-day stroll across Kilauea Caldera to a challenging and strenuous backpacking trip to the summit of Mauna Loa.

Besides explaining the dramatic volcanic features that are seen on this tour, we also tell something about the plants, birds, climate, and the island's history. But there is much more to be said and space is necessarily limited; for those who have a special interest in any of these fields we include a list of suggested reading with much more detailed information.

The tour of Crater Rim Drive is described clockwise from the Kilauea Visitor Center. The following symbols in the text indicate major points of interest:

OUT = Stop in the parking area, climb out of the car and look around.

HIKE = Stop in the parking area and take the suggested short hike.

LOOK = Things to notice from the car while driving between stops.

The number following the symbol....

shows the total miles driven. For example, (6.1) means that your mileage indicator should show that it is 6.1 miles since you started your guided tour.

If you are lucky enough to be in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park when one of the volcanoes is in action, find out from the park staff how you can best see the show; it will be a sight you will never forget. But even if the volcanoes are at rest you will have an immediate sense of their immense power, and you will see some of the newest rocks on Earth in this ever-changing landscape.


The road from Hilo to the headquarters of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park climbs 4,000 feet up the gently sloping sides of Mauna Loa and Kilauea Volcanoes. It is difficult to believe that this is the summit of one of the world's most active volcanoes; many visitors, expecting to see a steep conical mountain, ask "Where is the volcano?" Instead of a sharp peak, Kilauea's summit is a rolling plateau surrounding a huge cliff-bounded depression that is called a caldera.

This caldera is two to three miles across and about 400 feet deep on its north side. It formed by collapse; not just slow, gradual sinking, but violent collapse accompanied by great earthquakes and rockfalls as the caldera floor dropped many hundreds of feet in a time span of days to weeks. The life history of a volcano like Kilauea is made up of many such episodes of rapid caldera collapse followed by centuries of refilling.

Geologists believe that a collapse happens when submarine eruptions tap off major volumes of molten rock (called magma) from a reservoir 2 to 4 miles below the caldera. When magma is removed, the summit of the volcano cannot support its own weight and crashes into the void below.

The last major episode of collapse at Kilauea occurred in 1790, and was accompanied by an unusual explosive eruption that killed a group of Hawaiian soldiers. The luckless foot-soldiers were part of an army crossing the island to fight Kamehameha, the chief who eventually conquered all the Hawaiian Islands; this vivid demonstration that the volcano goddess Pele was on Kamehameha's side didn't hurt his cause.

Since 1790 Kilauea's eruptions have been, with one exception, the spectacular but "quiet" lava flow variety, and people have flocked to see them in ever-increasing numbers. Hawaii is one of the few places in the world where eruptions can be viewed at close range with little danger.

Kilauea's frequent eruptions sometimes occur at the summit and at other times along the rift zones that extend down the east and southwest flanks of the volcano to the ocean and for some miles out on the seafloor. The rift zones are regions in the flanks of Kilauea where large vertical cracks split open the volcano's sides for miles. Geologists believe these fractures are forced open by the pressure of magma accumulating in the underground reservoir. Lava flows from eruptions at the summit are slowly filling the great caldera pit; flows from flank eruptions pour down the slopes from the rift zones and sometimes reach the sea, adding new land to the island.

Kilauea has been built up by hundreds of thousands of lava flows, like a giant pile of candle drippings. This type of volcano is known to geologists as a shield volcano, because in profile its gentle slopes have a....

fancied resemblance to a warrior's shield Iying face up on the ground. Kilauea is about 100,000 years old -- a geological infant. Mauna Loa, the great shield volcano that looms over Kilauea on the western horizon, is considerably older -- perhaps a half million years.

The scenery you will drive through in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is unusual and diverse. Several factors have combined to create this unfamiliar landscape. Most obvious is the ongoing volcanic activity; eruptions of Kilauea occur frequently and have been nearly continuous from 1986 to 1992. Recent lava flows create stark black scars across lush vegetation that grows on the fertile volcanic soils of lava and ash deposits only a few hundred years old.

Also, the climate is extremely varied. Since the park extends from sea level to more than 13,000 feet at the summit of Mauna Loa, temperatures range from the 80's to the 20's. As the moisture-laden, northeast trade winds move up the windward slopes,they cool and drop copious amounts of rain; on their downslope journey in the lee of the volcanoes they warm and dry out. Within miles the climate-controlled landscape of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park changes from humid tropics to hot deserts, and from cool misty forests to open areas of bare rock and snow.

The Hawaiian chain of islands is so isolated -- 2,500 miles from the nearest continental neighbor -- that it was extremely difficult for flora and fauna to reach these barren, new volcanic islands before the arrival of humans. All life forms had to come by air, by floating on ocean currents, or attached to migratory birds. Evolution has worked in isolation in Hawaii; millions of years of adaptation by the few seeds and creatures that accidently reached the islands has created a unique clothing of life for an already unusual topography. There is a sense of ongoing creation and a special separate world in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that you will find no place else on Earth.


The best place to start your tour is at Park Headquarters, where there is a museum with exhibits about the park's natural history.

Park Headquarters and Visitor Center

OUT (O.O) An excellent relief model of the Island of Hawaii on the lanai outside the Visitor Center will help orient you to the island's topography, and the exhibits inside will acquaint you with some of the main features of the park. The striking scenes in a park film shown at regular intervals throughout the day provide a fine introduction to the mysteries of volcanic eruptions. Ask at the information desk about ranger-guided walks and other special programs. While in the Headquarters area spend some time at the nearby Volcano Art Center, housed in the historic original Volcano House which was built in 1877. It hosted many 19th century visitors to Kilauea, and is now a gallery for local artists and craftsmen. Worth a visit, too, is the newer Volcano House, a rustic hotel hidden in the trees across the road from the Visitor Center. This quiet lodge is perched on the very rim of Kilauea Caldera.

Before starting your automobile tour of Crater Rim Drive, walk along the Earthquake Trail (beginning at the exit of the Volcano House parking lot) to Waldron Ledge.

Earthquake Trail and Waldron Ledge

HIKE (O.O) Crater Rim Drive used to run along this high northeast rim of Kilauea Caldera just east of Volcano House, but on November 16,1983, that suddenly changed. Early that morning, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake beneath the east flank of Mauna Loa Volcano shook Hawaii Volcanoes National Park so violently that large sections of the rim cliff fell into the caldera, carrying away portions of the road and of the Crater Rim Trail.

The 0.6 mile round-trip trail begins at the exit of the Volcano House parking lot and follows along the broken roadway to Waldron Ledge. The cracks you see here are not part of the fault that caused the earthquake. The November 1983 earthquake was centered beneath the east flank of Mauna Loa, about halfway between the summits of Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes. These breaks formed as the intense shaking triggered major rockslides from the steep caldera rim cliffs. Even though the cracks in the road look ominous, measurements show that this area is now stablized, at least until the next large earthquake.

Waldron Ledge provides a grand view of both Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes. The ledge is part of the rim of Kilauea Caldera, the great 2 to 3 mile wide, 400-foot deep pit you are looking across.

Several major landmarks stand out: the reddish-brown hill to the left is the cinder cone formed in 1959 by an eruption in the nearby crater called Kilauea Iki; the steaming black hole at the far end of Kilauea Caldera is Halemaumau Crater; and the shield volcano that dominates the entire right background is Mauna Loa.

Kilauea Caldera was more than twice this deep in 1823 when it was described by missionary William Ellis, the first non-Hawaiian to visit the volcano. He and other hardy visitors who made the trip to Kilauea on foot or horseback during the 19th century marveled at the red-hot lake of boiling lava that was slowly filling the caldera. Although these nearly continuous summit eruptions stopped in 1924, numerous intermittent eruptions at the summit and on the flanks have preserved Kilauea's reputation as one of the world's most active volcanoes.

The black lava at the foot of Waldron Ledge is from a 1974 eruption. The indistinct line across this flow has been worn by the feet of thousands of hikers who have crossed the caldera on the Halemaumau Trail.

Walk back to pick up your car at the Visitor Center and set the trip meter to zero or note the mileage on the speedometer. From the parking area turn left, and then right onto Crater Rim Drive just before the Entrance Station.

LOOK As you leave the Visitor Center and start the clockwise trip around the crater rim, you are driving through a magnificent rainforest dominated by ferns and ohi'a trees. The ohi'a lehua is the most common native tree in the park, growing at elevations from sea level to almost 9,000 feet; on dry lava flows and, as here, in wet jungle. With its fluffy bright red blossoms, it is one of Hawaii's favorite native trees. Its tiny seeds are ideal for windblown distribution, so it is usually one of the first woody plants to appear on a new lava flow. A closely related variety of this tree evolved in New Zealand where it is known as the pohutakawa.

The lush ferns that form the dense understory of this forest are almost all native to Hawaii. There are three species of tree ferns here, including the hapu'u which can grow to 30 feet or more in height. The ama'uma'u fern, usually two or three feet tall, is distinctive because its new fronds are red before they turn green at maturity.

This is the wet side of Kilauea, with rainfall averaging nearly a hundred inches a year. A lava flow of the same age as the ones that underlie this dense forest would, in a dry area, appear almost barren.

Kilauea Iki Crater

OUT (1.4) The smooth black surface below you is a crusted-over lava lake (see page 17 Map of Kilauea Iki Crater (104K)). If you had been standing here in late November 1959 you would have seen an almost unbelievable sight -- a seething and rolling lake of molten lava in the crater below. This crater called Kilauea Iki (Little Kilauea) formed in prehistoric time by collapse, as did Kilauea Caldera itself.

On November 14,1959, a line of cracks opened on the wall of the crater across from here; from them lava fountains rose high in the air and streams of red-hot molten rock poured down into Kilauea Iki. As the lava ponded in the crater, the line of vents along the eruptive fissures consolidated into one main vent at what is now the base of the hill of cinders on the right end of the far crater wall. At times lava fountains spurted to heights of 1,900 feet, filling the molten lava lake to depths of 400 feet, and sometimes submerging the vent. Between periods of intense fountaining, lava that was ponded higher than the vent poured back into the Earth through the same conduit, leaving the "bathtub ring" that you see above the lake level.

Pu'u Pua'i, which means gushing hill, was built by the fall of red-hot spatter and cinders from the lava fountains. Trade....

winds blowing steadily from the northeast caused the cinder cone to form on the southwest side of the vent instead of symmetrically around it. Acid volcanic gases escaping through the loose pile oxidized the iron minerals in the lava, changing them from black to the rusty reds and yellow browns that color Pu'u Pua'i today.

It is hard to comprehend the vast scale of Kilauea Iki -- a mile long, 3,000 feet across, and 380 feet from this overlook down to the lava lake surface; if people are walking on the trail across the crater floor they look the size of ants.

Since lava is an excellent insulator, heat escapes very slowly from the crusted-over lake. In 1988, nearly 30 years after the lake formed, holes drilled into Kilauea Iki encountered a still-molten core of lava just 230 feet below the surface.

The next stop will be in 0.4 mile.

LOOK Some of the plants, birds and animals you will see on your drive are not native to Hawaii, but are introduced species. Flowers in the fern-ohi'a forest between Kilauea Iki and the Thurston Lava Tube are good examples; you may see red fuchsia, three species of ginger with yellow or white blooms, tall bamboo orchids, and brilliant orange tritonia. Though these bright blossoms look very much at home in this damp jungle, all are non-natives that have escaped from cultivation to grow here in the wild. None of the cultivated orchids for which Hawaii is justly famous is a native.

If you should see a small, weasel-like animal scurrying across the road, he too is an import -- a mongoose. Sugar planters in the last century brought the mongoose to Hawaii in hopes that they might control the rats that were destroying their crops, but since rats are nocturnal and mongoose hunt in the daytime the experiment was a failure and both populations continued to flourish.



Name of Volcano: Kilauea Mauna Loa
Type of Volcano: Shield Volcano with caldera Shield Volcano with caldera
Composition: basaltic basaltic
Elevation Above Sea Level: 4,001 feet 13,667 feet
Aproximate Height above Sea Floor: 21,000 feet 31,000 feet
Size of Caldera: 3 x 2 miles 3 x 1.5 miles
Oldest Exposed Lavas: about 100,000 years old about 200,000 years old
Latest Eruption (as of 1992): 1983-1992 1984


Thurston Lava Tube

HIKE (1.8) A 0.3-mile loop trail leads into this small, jungle-filled crater and through a cave in a lava flow (see page 19 Map of Thurston Lava Tube (143k)). Sometime before the 1790 collapse of Kilauea Caldera this area was the summit of the volcano, and lava overflowing this crater poured down the mountain toward Hilo Bay. The river of hot lava feeding one of these flows cooled and crusted over, but the still-molten interior of the flow kept moving downslope. As the eruption slowed and stopped, the molten core continued to flow, leaving the emptied cave-like lava tunnel behind. Such lava tubes, sometimes many miles long, are common in Hawaii and were used by early Hawaiians as burial caves as well as for shelter or refuge.

The dense fern-forest jungle along the path to the lava tube is typical of the high-rainfall vegetation at this elevation in Hawaii. Stop and listen to the bird calls. If you are patient you might catch a glimpse of some of the rare Hawaiian birds that make this jungle their home. The apapane is a bright red bird that can often be seen in the treetops, feeding on insects and nectar from the fluffy red ohi'a blossoms which it resembles. If you see a small, yellowish bird busily hunting insects in the forest canopy it is probably an amakihi, one of Hawaii's most common native birds.

This lava tube was discovered in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local newspaper publisher and conservationist. At that time the roof of the cave was covered with lava....

stalactites, but those soon disappeared to souvenir collectors.

As you walk through the cavern, consider that only a few hundred years ago a red-hot river of lava coursed through here in the same direction you are walking. Notice the high lava marks on the sides of the cave, indicating the surface level of the flow as it moved through the tube. Notice, too, the tree roots that dangle through the cave roof and drip with water after a rain. These ohi'a roots are the sole outside energy source for many species of blind, colorless insects and spiders which have evolved in dark caves like this one.

The trail climbs out of the lava tube through a hole where the thin roof of the cave has collapsed. The tube continues beyond this point, but loose areas with falling rocks make it too dangerous to explore.

The next stop will be in 1.3 miles.

Pu'u Pua'i and Devastation Trail

HIKE (3.1) Turn right off Crater Rim Drive at (2.8) miles, to the Pu'u Pua'i overlook. Before starting down the 0.4-mile long boardwalk trail (see page 20 Map of Devastation Trail (91k)), have another look into Kilauea Iki Crater. You are now just across from the Kilauea Iki overlook where you stopped earlier.

If you like, the driver of your car can drive around to the Devastation Trail parking area (about 0.7 mile farther along Crater Rim Drive), park there and walk from the other end of the trail to meet your group.

On most days there is a strong trade wind blowing at Pu'u Pua'i overlook, so it is easy to imagine how this cone was built downwind from the vent during the high lava fountaining in 1959. Notice remnants of the old road that was buried beneath the upper part of Pu'u Pua'i. Lava spatter that fell close to the vent was still hot enough to weld itself to previously-erupted material, forming a strong pile called a spatter cone.

Farther downwind, several hundred feet along the trail, the falling pumice cinders had cooled enough that they did not weld together but instead formed a blanket of loose cinders. Even so, they were still hot enough to burn the trunks of ohi'a trees that grew here. Dead white logs and holes in the cinder blanket are all that remain of this once-lush forest.

The live trees and bushes along this part of the trail have all grown up since the eruption. Native plants including ferns ohi'a, and ohelo are usually among the first to recolonize in an environment like this, but here some non-natives are aggressively moving in as well. Plants like buddleia, Japanese anemone, and blackberry, conspicuous along the trail, are strong competitors and may prove destructive to the native plant community.

Examine a few pieces of the pumice. It is so light that lumps of it will float on water. Notice the tiny bubble holes; pumice is actually a froth of gas and molten glass that was chilled so rapidly that the bubbles did not have time to coalesce and burst. The solid, more dense lava that ponded in Kilauea Iki Crater is of essentially the same composition, but there the lava cooled more slowly and many of the gas bubbles were able to escape.

Near the southern end of Devastation Trail, ohi'a trees buried in less than about 10 feet of pumice cinders survived. Stripped of all their leaves and much of their bark, they were thought to be dead, but a year or two after the eruption new leaves began to appear and life returned to many of them. The thick clusters of aerial roots on some....

of the ohi'a in the area developed during the recovery process as a response to the stress of being partially buried.

The next stop will be in 0.9 mile.

LOOK As you leave the Devastation Trail parking area, turn right on Crater Rim Drive. For about a quarter of a mile along here you can see banks of pumice cinders from the high lava fountains that formed Pu'u Pua'i. After the 1959 Kilauea Iki eruption they were plowed off the road like drifts of snow. These banks diminish in thickness from about 8 feet down to only a foot or two with distance from their source. Notice how the trees are small and scrawny here and even the bushes are thinning out; you are just on the edge of the Ka'u Desert, a barren area only a few miles away from the verdant fern-forest jungles of the windward northeast rim of Kilauea Caldera.

Keanakako'i Crater

OUT (4.7) Keanakako'i, meaning the cave of the adzes, is the pit crater on the left side of the road. Pit craters form by collapse when molten material beneath them is removed. They, along with surface cracks and eruption vents, mark the rift zones that split the sides of Hawaiian volcanoes.

The new-looking lavas that cover this area were erupted in 1974 from vents on both sides of the road. On the left side of the road, see where some of these red-hot flows cascaded over the rim of Keanakako'i and ponded in the bottom of the crater. Earlier lava flows in 1877 covered the cave for which this crater was named; the basalt layer found in that cave apparently was fine grained and dense enough to make good stone tools.

Walk the short path to the overlook on the caldera side of the road to see the lines of vents which fed these recent flows. Steam and sulfur deposits are still issuing from active gas vents, called fumaroles, along these eruption fissures.

On a clear day you have a fine panoramic view of Mauna Loa Volcano from here. From left to right, the south rift of Mauna Loa rises in a gently sloping ridge from the ocean (just out of view) to more than 13,000 feet. Past its nearly level summit, the great profile slopes downward along the northeast rift zone. To see the whole sweep of Mauna Loa from here your gaze encompasses 120 degrees; no wonder the Hawaiians gave it the name "long mountain"

Beyond the northeast ridge of Mauna Loa is the summit of Mauna Kea (white mountain). Some of the world's largest and most sophisticated telescopes are housed in the astronomical observatories perched on the large cinder cones near Mauna Kea's 13,796-foot summit.

The next stop will be in 1.2 miles.

LOOK As you drive away from Keanakako'i, notice the light-colored ash layers in the road cut. These deposits fell from great ash clouds created by explosive eruptions in 1790.

Past Keanakako'i Crater the rim road descends into the south end of Kilauea Caldera. In September 1982 a brief eruption flooded this end of the caldera with a lava flow that covered several hundred feet of the road. Lava of the type seen in this flow is called pahoehoe and has a smooth or ropy surface, in contrast to a'a lava flows which are jumbles of rough lava blocks.

Road crews of the National Park rebuilt the road only 6 weeks after the eruption, and bulldozers ripping into the pahoehoe lava overturned slabs that were solid but still glowing inside. Rebuilding roads covered by lava is routine in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; mapmakers and roadguide writers have a hard time keeping up with the changing terrain.

As the road approaches Halemaumau Crater, notice that this area is littered with angular rocks that were hurled out of Halemaumau in an unusual explosive eruption that occurred in 1924. Some of these blocks weigh several tons and were thrown half a mile by intermittent steam explosions. Such explosive eruptions are rare in Hawaii and are preceded by several weeks of major subsidence in the caldera region, so they do not occur without warning.

Halemaumau Crater

HIKE (5.9) IMPORTANT WARNING! If anyone in your group has asthma, a respiratory ailment or heart trouble, roll up your car windows, turn off outside air vents and drive past this area of strong sulfur fumes. Young children and pregnant women should avoid this area also. Brief exposure to these volcanic gases is not harmful to healthy people, but no one should spend hours in this environment.

Halemaumau is the legendary home of Pele, Goddess of Hawaiian volcanoes. Take the 0.2-mile trail to the edge of Halemaumau Crater. Alongside the trail notice the steaming cracks with mineral encrustations. These minerals form from....

chemicals in the volcanic gases -- mostly carbon dioxide, steam and sulfur dioxide -- combining with chemicals in the lava. The acid volcanic gases attack the lava and convert it into clay minerals. When Mark Twain walked near here more than a hundred years ago, he noted that "The smell of sulfur is strong, but not unpleasant to a sinner."

From the overlook you gaze into Pele's home. The crater is 3,000 feet across and in 1992 was 280 feet deep. Halemaumau has changed greatly in size and depth during the past 60 to 70 years. In 1924 it was only 1,500 feet in diameter and was nearly filled by a lake of molten lava that slowly stirred and bubbled at a red-hot temperature of 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Magma then moved underground down the east rift of Kilauea Volcano and the lava lake drained away. This subsidence continued for three months with great chunks of the crater walls and floor caving into the vast hole formed by the sinking lava column. Heated ground water rushed in to fill the void, causing a series of steam explosions from the bottom of the crater. The angular blocks all around Halemaumau were thrown out in these explosions. A curious photographer who ventured too close was fatally injured by a falling rock during one of the steam blasts -- the only known eruption casualty in Hawaii since 1790.

After the 1924 collapse, Halemaumau Crater was 3,000 feet across and 1,200 feet deep. Many eruptions in the years since then have refilled it to its present level. The latest major Halemaumau eruption, in 1967, filled the crater with a lava lake to within 100 feet of the rim . After that eruption the still-molten lava drained back down, leaving a solidified ring that clearly shows the high lava mark.

Halemaumau's floor is now largely covered by lava from a brief 1974 eruption. Followers of Pele still offer gifts to her by tossing in bottles of gin, money, and occasionally a whole roast pig. Each year during Aloha Week (usually the first week in October) a formal ceremony with traditional hula dances and chants takes place on the rim of Halemaumau.

In contrast to the unrelieved blackness of the floor of Kilauea Caldera and Halemaumau, you might see a large, graceful white bird soaring above the crater -- the white-tailed tropicbird. Locally called the crater bird or Koa'e, it has a 36-inch wingspread and long white tail streamers. The Koa'e feeds at sea but nests in cliffs like those nearby.

The next stop will be in 1.0 mile.

LOOK Southwest from the Halemaumau parking lot the road crosses several lava flows that are completely barren of vegetation. The reddish brown flows were erupted in 1919 and 1921, and the dark gray to black flows....

were erupted in 1971 and 1974. The color difference is only skin deep and occurs from the weathering of the older flows. The black-colored minerals and glass in basalt contain iron compounds, and as these oxidize the iron minerals rust and form coatings of iron oxides.

In this area downwind from Halemaumau the weathering is intensified by natural acid rain. About 200 to 300 tons of sulfur dioxide gas escapes from Halemaumau every day. This is oxidized by the air, and if enough moisture is present small droplets of sulfuric acid are formed. The Ka'u Desert, a vast barren area southwest of Kilauea Caldera, is on the lee side of Kilauea's summit and receives less rainfall than the lush fern forests on the windward rim of the caldera. But the 30 to 40 inches of average annual rainfall it does receive (more than San Francisco's annual average) is largely acid rain. The moonscape of Halemaumau Crater and the Ka'u Desert are stark examples of severe acid rain's long-term effects.

Southwest Rift Zone

OUT (6.9) After climbing part way back up the rim of the caldera the road crosses Kilauea's southwest rift zone, visible here as a group of deep fractures and gullies.

Rift zones are regions of weakness in the volcano's sides along which underground cracks occur. These fractures are caused by the buildup of pressure in the magma stored beneath the volcano's summit. When the rocks break, magma moves into the underground fracture and forces the rocks apart. Sometimes the molten rock reaches the surface as an eruption, but often it stays underground and the only effects seen on the surface are open cracks.

These cracks and gullies have formed in the thick buff-colored ash layers deposited by the 1790 explosive eruption of Kilauea. Black lava flows from the 1971 eruption poured down some of the gullies in this....

area. The southwest rift zone with its fractures and eruption vents extends from the summit of Kilauea down to the coast, and beyond on the seafloor.

The next stop will be in 1.8 miles.

LOOK Notice that as the road leaves the area directly downwind from Halemaumau, the vegetation gradually starts to return -- stunted at first, but becoming healthier as the road climbs out of the caldera. The ohi'a trees here are scarcely more than scrubby bushes, but still have the characteristic puffy red blooms.

Jaggar Museum and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

OUT (8.7) Dr. Thomas A. Jaggar, Professor of Geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founded the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) in 1912 and stayed on as its Director until 1940. Jaggar's goal was to understand how volcanoes work and to use that knowledge to help reduce the dangers of volcanic activity on a worldwide basis.

Professor Jaggar -- that's what he liked to be called -- was one of the key people who convinced the U.S. Congress to establish Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in 1916. For a time HVO was supported by the National Park Service and other Federal agencies, but since 1947 has been part of the U.S. Geological Survey. Its laboratories are not open to the public, but excellent exhibits at the adjacent Jaggar Museum demonstrate the ways in which scientists study volcanoes.

HVO monitors Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes in particular, but its network of seismographs can also detect earthquakes beneath other potentially active volcanoes on Hawaii or Maui if they begin to show signs of unrest.

Seismographs, tiltmeters and other delicate electronic instruments at HVO show that volcanic activity continues between eruptions, and the movements of underground magma can be traced with remarkable accuracy.

So many tiny earthquakes -- more than 100,000 per year -- are recorded by the 50 seismic stations on Hawaii and radioed into the observatory that it takes a computer working full time to locate their points of origin. In an average week 3 or 4 earthquakes are felt somewhere on the Big Island, and a damaging quake occurs about once every 10 years.

Instruments called tiltmeters show that the summit regions of Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes slowly inflate with magma for months to years before the internal pressure reaches the breaking point. A tiltmeter works on the same principle as a carpenter's level but is vastly more sensitive, recording changes in tilt of one part in 10,000,000. That is like having a carpenter's level 3,000 feet long that would register a change if a piece of paper were slipped under one end. If the ground at the summit tilts away from the caldera it indicates inflation of the volcano; tilting inward toward the caldera indicates deflation caused by removal of magma. This deflation occurs when fractures in the rift zones tap away magma stored beneath the summit.

The gases leaking out of Halemaumau and from other vents around the summit and rift zones of Kilauea are also studied for important clues to what is going on beneath the volcano's surface. Changes in....

gas volume, temperature, and composition are vital signs used in diagnosing the underground activity of a volcano.

The most adventurous job for volcanologists is documenting the actual eruptions. Working as close as possible to erupting fountains and flows, they try to answer such questions as: How much lava is being erupted per hour? Is it increasing or decreasing? Is the lava pahoehoe or a'a? How fast are the flows moving? How far will they go? Will any populated areas be in danger? Some of the answers can be exact; others only reasonable estimates. Questions of what will happen next can only be answered by educated guesses, but as understanding improves, so do the guesses.

Forecasting the time, locations and character of volcanic eruptions in Hawaii can now be done with some success -- much better that random guesses, but far from perfect. Forecasting will improve with increasing knowledge of how volcanoes work, but will probably never be exact. There is an old saying in weather forecasting that "Nature always bats last." That surely fits volcanoes as well.

Professor Jaggar would be pleased at the advances in understanding volcanoes since his pioneering studies. In 1983, when the long-lived Pu'u O'o eruption of Kilauea began, volcanic tremor triggered the telephone alarms that brought scientists hurrying from their homes to HVO just after midnight on January 2. Volcanic tremor is a nearly continuous vibration of the ground caused by magma moving in fractures beneath the surface. Although generally not felt, it is detected by sensitive seismographs.

By plotting the pattern of small earthquakes caused by the newly-forming fractures, the....

seismologists at HVO tracked the underground cracking and leakage of magma into Kilauea's East Rift. The movement was slow, less than one mile per hour, and geologists in the field directed by radio contact with the seismologists at the observatory were able to keep pace on the rift zone's surface. Would the underground injection of magma break to the surface? It finally did, at night, 24 hours after the original alert and 9 miles east of HVO. The geologists were on hand to see a broken line of fissures crack open and erupt red~hot lava in "curtains of fire." Little did they realize at the time that Kilauea would still be bleeding lava through that underground conduit a decade later.

Just as Jaggar had envisioned, HVO has exported its scientific discoveries as well. The huge explosive eruptions of Pinatubo Volcano in the Philippines in 1991 were preceded for many days by an increasing swarm of tiny earthquakes. Warned by the growing number and changes in location of the quakes beneath the volcano, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology was able to alert and evacuate 40,000 people from nearby areas. Although hundreds were killed by the giant eruptions of June 14-15, mainly by collapsing roofs from the heavy wet ashfall, thousands were saved by the accurate forecast.

From the overlook outside the Jaggar Museum the views of Kilauea Caldera and Halemaumau Crater are among the best in the park. Across the caldera on the horizon is the dome of Mauna Ulu (growing mountain) which piled up during a long-lived east rift zone eruption of Kilauea from 1969 to 1974. To the right of the caldera are several cones which mark the line of the southwest rift zone leading down to the sea.

The next stop will be in 1.7 miles.

LOOK The road to the right at (9.1) miles leads to the Kilauea overlook and picnic area. The view is much the same as that from the Jaggar Museum. If you want one more crater view or a place to picnic this is a good place to stop.

Along this part of Crater Rim Drive ohelo bushes are abundant, whith some ripe berries at almost any time of the year. These juicy berries resemble a red huckleberry or pale cramberry. Hawaiian lore says that this fruit is sacred to Pele, so if you want to sample a few, custom dictates that you toss the first handful in the direction of Halemaumau Crater as a gift to her.

On the left at (9.8) miles is a grove of young koa trees. These handsome trees, native to Hawaii, have crescent-shaped leaves and light grey bark, and grow to more than 100 feet tall, Koa wood was used by early Hawaiians for canoes and cafvings. Just past the koa grove is Kilauea Military Camp, a rest and recreation camp for members of the armed forces, that pre-dates the National Park.

Steaming Bluff

HIKE (10.4) This treeless plain is a terrace between the inner and outer cliffs of Kilauea Caldera. The ground just a few feet down is so hot that tree roots won't survive, but shallow-rooted grasses, ohelo berries and bamboo orchids grow here. Ground water seeps down to the still-hot volcanic rocks and comes back to the surface as steam, especially near the caldera rim. On some days the steaming seems much more profuse than on others; this is not because of increasing ground heat, but is due to changing weather conditions and increased humidity. On calm days, steam flows over the cliff walls and pours down into Kilauea Caldera. Take the short, five-minute walk to the caldera's edge to see what is happening today.

Turn in the next left side road in 0.5 mile to Sulfur Bank.

Sulfur Bank

OUT (11.0) A short side road leads to Sulfur Bank, where volcanic gases seep out along with ground-water steam. These gases are rich in carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide -- the one that smells like rotten eggs. Some sulfur gases deposit pure crystals which form the bright yellow coatings at Sulfur Bank. Other sulfur gases form sulfuric acid which breaks down the lava to clay that is stained red and brown with rusty iron oxide minerals.

The next stop will be the National Park Visitor Center in 0.3 mile, completing the tour of Crater Rim Drive. If you still have time for a walk, consider Bird Park Trail or the first 1/2 mile of the Halemaumau Trail. Both are briefly described on page 46.



The Chain of Craters Road is 23 miles long measured from Crater Rim Drive to where it is covered by recent lava flows (see pages 30-31 Map of Chain of Craters Road (221K)).

Keeping this road open is an ongoing battle with Pele; it has been covered by lava or cracked apart by earthquakes several times. Twelve miles of the road were inundated by lava from Mauna Ulu during 1969-1974 (see page 38 Schematic of Mauna Ulu Lavas 1969-1974 (117K)), and 5 miles of the connecting road to the Puna area were covered by lava from the Kupaianaha vent of the Pu'u O'o eruption during 1986-1991. In November 1992 new vents near Pu'u O'o again sent lava pouring over the pali. Flows crossed the highway near Kamoamoa, closing another mile of road and coursing into the ocean for the first time in a year.

Once you leave Kilauea's summit there will be no food or water available along the way. Also, the nearest gas is back at Volcano Village. If you plan to spend several hours or all day on the trip, check your gas gauge and be sure to take along something cold to drink or a picnic to enjoy at one of the scenic stops along the way. In this guide, mileages are given from the intersection of Chain of Craters Road and Crater Rim Drive, so set your trip meter or note your speedometer reading at that point.

When missionary William Ellis visited Kilauea Volcano in 1823, there was a perpetual lava lake bubbling in Halemaumau Crater. While his group was camped at Steaming Bluff overlooking that awesome sight, his Hawaiian guides explained that he was looking at the home of Pele, goddess of fire. They also told him that eruptions occurred not only at Kilauea's summit but sometimes from vents on the sides of the volcano many miles away, and when this happened Pele was traveling by a "road underground" from her home in the caldera to the eruption site.

Geologists today give a more scientific explanation, but they essentially agree with that interpretation. As magma inflates a shallow reservoir 2 to 4 miles beneath the summit caldera, the increasing pressure can fracture the sides of Kilauea along weak zones called rifts. Magma is injected into these cracks in the rift zone, and moves underground for many miles before breaking out at the surface in a flank eruption .

When a new underground fissure is formed and injected with magma, thousands of small earthquakes mark the progressing fracture, and as magma moves into the rift zone the summit subsides by a measurable amount -- inches to feet. These seismic and deformation data provide scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory with clues to how rift eruptions occur, and to where and when the lava outbreak is likely to happen.

Chain of Craters Road follows the axis of Kilauea Volcano's east rift zone from the summit as far as Mauna Ulu, the site of a major eruption that lasted from 1969 to 1974. The road then zig-zags down the south flank of the mountain to the sea, and continues along the coast to where it is blocked by lava flows.

LOOK The first few miles of Chain of Craters Road show the marks of the east rift zone; craters, cracks, and mounds of lava and cinders at various eruption vents. The fresh-looking lava flow that the road crosses at (0.3) mile was erupted in 1974 from vents on the right side of the road.

Lua Manu Crater

OUT (0.4) Lua Manu, to the right of the road, is a small pit crater that was partially filled when the 1974 lava flow poured into it. Pit craters are steep-walled basins with no explosion debris on their rims; they form when magma drains away from beneath, causing the ground to collapse into the void below. These craters along Chain of Craters Road are prehistoric, but several of them probably were formed or deepened during the major summit subsidence in 1790 that created much of the present Kilauea Caldera.

The next stop will be in 0.6 mile.

Puhimau Crater

OUT (1.0) This large, oval pit crater on the left side of the road is about 600 by 400 feet wide and 500 feet deep. No lava flows have ponded in Puhimau since its formation, and the steep slopes of talus blocks that funnel down to the crater floor are typical of unfilled pit craters. On the upper cliff walls you can see many prehistoric lava flows that erupted along the east rift before the collapse which formed Puhimau Crater and exposed those layers.

The ohi'a forest in this area is being invaded by faya trees. This unwelcome newcomer was brought to Hawaii from the Azores, apparently as a house plant, and has spread rapidly. Faya are conical in shape with dark green foliage. The branches point upward, and new leaves at the branch tips are light green. It remains to be seen if this tough invader will eventually crowd out the native trees.

The next stop will be in 2.2 miles.

LOOK Koko'olau Crater, at (1.5) miles, is the small forest-filled pit crater on the right side of the road. (Koko'olau is the Hawaiian name for Bidens, the sticky little seeds that cling to socks and clothes.) The mound on the northwest rim of the crater is a prehistoric....

lava vent. The dense vegetation is a clue that this crater has not been active in a long time -- probably more than 200 years.

The side road to the right at (2.2) miles leads 9 miles to Hilina Pali -- a steep escarpment that overlooks the south coast of the island. Take this side trip if you have some extra time, but similar pali (cliffs) will be seen ahead on Chain of Crater Road.

Kipuka Nene, half way along the Hilina Pali Road, is a good place for picnicking or camping, and is a trail head for hikes to the coast. Hilina Pali, at the end of the road, has a picnic shelter and is an alternate starting point for coastal hikes (see Halape Trail, page 46 ).

At (2.4) miles Chain of Craters road cuts through a cone of reddish lava spatter and....

cinders; look to your left to see the exposed layers. This cone formed at a prehistoric eruption vent, and acid gas vapors then oxidized iron minerals in the lava fragments to their rusty red color.

At (2.6) miles a 1973 lava flow crossed the road from right to left and ponded in Hi'iaka Crater, on the left. The eruption vents were a group of fissures on both sides of the road with a total length of about one-half mile. Swarms of small earthquakes precede eruptions like this by a few hours. They are detected and located by the Volcano Observatory, and this information allows the National Park Service time to close and clear the road for safety before an eruption begins.

Pauahi Crater

OUT (3.2) This figure-8-shaped pit crater is about 2,000 feet long and more than 300 feet deep. In 1973 and again in 1979 lava flows from eruptions near here ponded in the bottom of the crater, and cracks in the crater floor allowed some of the 1973 flows to drain back underground after the eruption had stopped. The high-lava mark is still visible as a ring above the floor in the far end of the crater.

In November, 1979, swarms of small earthquakes beneath this area were recorded at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Geologists zeroed in on Pauahi Crater and were standing on the overlook plafform when the eruption began, 11 hours after the onset of the earthquakes. The fissure first broke to the surface on the north rim of the crater, and white billows of steam rushed up with the noise of jet engines. This was quickly followed by a sound like a rifle shot as the fracture ripped down the north wall of the crater. Earthquakes shook the platform (which was quickly abandoned) and red-hot lava began to spurt from the crack in the crater wall. Lava fountains roared to life along the west rim of the crater as the fissure continued to lengthen, and flows crossed the road just south of the parking lot. The 1979 Pauahi eruption lasted only one day, but was easily accessible and was viewed by thousands of visitors.

Two hills visible in the distance beyond the left side of Pauahi Crater mark major east-rift eruption vents. The steep, wooded hill to the left is Pu'u Huluhulu (shaggy hill), a prehistoric cinder and spatter cone. The large, gently sloping barren hill on the right is Mauna Ulu (growing mountain), the shield built up by many lava flows which erupted from this vent between 1969 and 1974.

Turn left in 0.6 mile to Mauna Ulu parking area, a spur of the old Chain of Craters Road.

Mauna Ulu

HIKE (4.2) Walk a few yards to the road's end where it was buried beneath a 1973 pahoehoe lava flow from Mauna Ulu, the large shield vent in the background. Beyond the thin pahoehoe flow is a thicker a'a flow, erupted from Mauna Ulu in 1974. Pahoehoe and a'a flows are of similar basaltic composition, but the a'a flows are generally a little less hot and more viscous. The surface of a moving pahoehoe flow stretches to form a smooth or ropy surface, while the surface skin of a moving a'a flow breaks up into a rubble of clinkers that ride along on top of the flow.

If time allows, hike the 2-mile round-trip trail to the top of Pu'u Huluhulu for a fine panoramic view. The trail crosses 1973 lava flows marked by rock cairns (called ahu in Hawaiian). From the lookout on Pu'u....

Huluhulu you can see the 770-foot high cone of Pu'u O'o (Hill of the O'o Bird) 5 miles northeast It was built by cinders and spatter falling from lava fountains, some as high as 1,500 feet, that occured more than 40 times during 1983 to 1986. In 1984 one of these fountains spouted while Mauna Loa was erupting, and hikers to Pu'u Huluhulu were treated to the rare sight of two Hawaiian volcanoes in eruption at the same time.

In 1986 the Pu'u O'o eruption shifted 2 miles farther downrift to a vent named Kupaianaha (Hawaiian for mysterious). Pahoehoe lava from this new vent flowed slowly but continuously to the sea (see pages 30-31, Map of Chain of Craters Road (221K)). By 1992 the overall Pu'u O'o eruption had destroyed nearly 200 homes and buildings, and added 300 acres of land to Hawaii.

After leaving the Mauma Ulu Parking area, return to Chain of Craters Road and turn left. from here the road moves away from the rift zone toward the sea. The next stop is 3.1 miles from the Mauna Ulu parking area.

LOOK At (4.9) miles the road crosses some 1969 lava flows from Mauna Ulu. Along this stretch of road, notice that the forests of ohi'a trees are quite variable in height depending on the age of the lava flows on which they grow.

At (6.5) miles is Kipuka Kahali'i, a recovering forest of young ohi'a trees, and other plants. This area was spared by lava flows from Mauna Ulu, but it was covered by a deep layer of falling cingders that were carried downwind in 1969 from the high lava fountains. Much of the vegetation was smothered in the hot ash, and only the hardier plants have been able to grow back.

Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu

OUT (7.3) This is the edge of a large area of flows from Mauna Ulu; an iridescent sea of lava that is crossed by the rebuilt road (see the Schematic of Mauna Ulu Lavas 1969-1974 (117K) on page 38). Ferns are beginning to revegetate the hard, shining surface of 1974 pahoehoe flows at this location.

As sterile and inhospitable as the lava might !ook, it actually contains most of the soil nutrients needed to support life. The key seems to be water; where there is abundant rainfall and a few cracks for seeds or spores to lodge in, ferns, lichen and algae can start to appear just a few months after a lava flow cools. Woody plants arrive soon after, with ohi'a usually one of the first to colonize. On the wetter side of the island, flows only a hundred years old are covered by dense jungle, while on the dry side, prehistoric flows of the same type are slick and bare.

The next stop wm be in 1.0 mile.

Muliwai a Pele

OUT (8.3) The volume of the 1969-1974 lava flows from Mauna Ulu totals about 450 million cubic yards; enough to pave a highway around the Earth's equator 45 feet wide and 2 feet thick. Piled flow on top of flow, they cover more than 17 square miles with an average thickness of about 25 feet.

Large lava flows often form central channels in which the incandescent lava moves at speeds of several miles per hour. However, at the flow fromt the channels become dispersed, and the average advance rate of Hawaiian flows is seldom more than several miles per day.

The platform near the parking area overlooks a major lava channel that drained out when the upstream vent stopped producing lava. Imagine this channel running bank -- full with bright orange molten lava; the heat at this distance would scorch your face in seconds.

On both sides of the road at this location are excellent examples of both a'a and pahoehoe type lava flows. If there has recently been an east rift eruption with high lava fountains, look in lava cracks here for some strands of Pele's hair -- fine threads of volcanic glass that look like spun gold. These strands, formed in lava fountains, are droplets of molten rock that are whirled apart into threads and can drift for miles on the wind.

The next stop will be in 2.4 miles.

LOOK (8.8) This area which continues for about one-half mile is a kipuka, an island of original vegetation that was surrounded but not covered by flows from Mauna Ulu. The intense heat of the lava coursing past, though, often starts grass or forest fires in kipukas such as this.

Ke ala Komo

OUT (10.7) This overlook and exhibit shelter is on the crest of Holei Pali, part of a system of fault escarpments along which the coastal area has moved downward relative to the east rift zone of Kilauea Volcano. The last major movements on these cliffs occurred during large earthquakes in 1868 and 1975.

In November 1975, some of these scarps slipped five feet in a magnitude 7.2 earthquake. The coast sank as much as ten feet and shifted seaward by more than twenty feet. This sudden displacement churned up a tsunami ("tidal wave") which swept in upon a group camped at Halape, a beach reached only by a trail at the base of the steep pali rising from the coast to the southwest. Two men and some pack horses were drowned, but 30 other young campers, though swept inland by the huge wave, miraculously survived.

Notice in the distance where Mauna Ulu lavas cascaded over the steep Holei Pali, flowed across the flatter land below and reached the sea, adding 210 acres of new land to Hawaii. From here the young a'a flows below look dull black and the pahoehoe flows are a silvery gray.

The next stop will be in 3.6 miles.

LOOK From Ke ala Komo the road switchbacks down the pali for more than 1,000 feet. This descent is in the lee of the trade winds ana average rainfall drops off sharply. At the vent of Mauna Ulu it is often cool and damp, while only seven miles south and 3,000 feet lower, where the Mauna Ulu flows enter the sea, it is warm and dry.

Twisted Pahoehoe

OUT (14.3) On the right side of the road where the Mauna Ulu flows poured down the steep pali, a pahoehoe flow forms a twisted pile of lobes like a great heap of tangled black serpents. Unfortunately, this natural surrealistic sculpture is gradually being carted away for souvenirs. This is not only thoughtless but illegal. Besides, according to believers in Pele, it is very bad luck to move pieces of her lava from their natural setting. Take home a photograph instead of a paperweight.

The next stop will be in 0.6 mile.

Alanui Kahiko

OUT (14.9) On the left side of the road, about 200 feet downslope, are some patches of the earlier Chain of Craters Road. When lava flows from Mauna Ulu inundated this area in 1972, the road was covered except for isolated spots such as these. Above the new highway the young flows which cascaded down the pali form a chaos of pahoehoe and a'a textures.

The next stop will be in 2.2 miles.

Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs

HIKE (17.1) A 2-mile (round trip) trail leads from this parking area to Pu'u Loa, the largest concentration of petroglyphs in Hawaii, with more than 15,000 carvings. These figures, shapes and symbols were carved into pahoehoe at this site along the old Puna-Ka'u trail by early Hawaiians, most before the arrival of Western settlers.

The literal meaning of Pu'u Loa is "long hill", but Hawaiians interpret it to mean "hill of long life" The top of this central hill is completely covered with at least 7,000 cup-like holes that were pecked into the lava and appear to be very old. On the flat lava that surrounds the hill is a vast array of carvings, almost all incorporating these cup-shaped holes in different designs. Some are simple holes or groups of holes enclosed in a circle, some are holes interconnected in imaginative ways to form designs and many are human figures associated with groups of holes.

One theory is that it was the custom of early Hawaiians to bring to Pu'u Loa the umbilical stump (which they called the piko) of a newborn baby, carve a hole in the rock, put the piko in and cover it with a stone. If the piko was still there in the morning, the child was assured of a long life. This was not just a local custom; families from Oahu, Maui and even Kauai would save the pikos of all their children and eventually make the long canoe trip to Pu'u Loa. There they would make a hole....

for each piko and surround them with a circle to signify a family. Some circles contain as many as 30 or 40 holes.

This custom seems to have continued for many generations, well into the late 1800's, when it was discouraged by the missionaries.

Walk along the boardwalk that winds through some of the best of these fascinating old rock pictures. It is important to stay on the trail and not step on these fragile carvings; the edges chip and wear down easily. As you walk back to the parking area, notice how the pahoehoe of this old trail has been worn smooth by hikers -- most of them barefoot -- over the last thousand years.

The next stop will be in 2.5 miles.

Holei Sea Arch

OUT (19.6) Waves are the most powerful agents of erosion in Hawaii. Hawaiian legends recognized this with their tales of furious fights between Pele and her sister Namakaokaha'i who was goddess of the sea. Pele built one home after another and her sister followed her to destroy them.

Sea cliffs are common in Hawaii, especially on shores exposed to large ocean swells. The waves erode at sea level, undercutting the cliffs which eventually break off and slide into the sea. Variations in hardness of the lava flows and in wave patterns cause irregular erosion, forming sea arches and sea stacks. Look for noddy terns and other shore birds that nest in these cliffs. In winter you may see whales surfacing and spouting out at sea.

At Holei Sea Arch the cliff is about 90 feet high. Where the cliffs are slightly lower, large boulders are sometimes tossed up onto the cliff rim by a tsunami that can occasionally result from a local or distant earthquake.

LOOK You may have noticed that neither Crater Rim Drive nor Chain of Craters Road crosses any streams. On this part of the island the lava is too new -- and too porous -- for any watercourses to form. Early Hawaiians living in this area had to depend on water that was caught in the infrequent rains, or that percolated through the lava and was collected in "drip caves"

Until the mid-nineteenth century, Hawaiian villages dotted this dry coastline. At Lae'apuki, (22.1) miles, the palm grove to the right of the road marks the remnant of one such village, virtually destroyed in 1868 by a massive earthquake and tsunami. The site was used by cattle and goat ranchers until the early 1920's when it was abandoned.

Lae'apuki is the name of an ahupua'a, one of the early Hawaiian land divisions that were wedge-shaped to give each division village sites at the seacoast and a narrowing access to forest and mountain for hunting and firewood gathering.

Lava Closes Road

Ahead on the left, on the higher slopes of Kilauea's east rift zone, are scars of lava flows from the Pu'u O'o eruption. Many episodes of high lava fountaining, lasting a few hours to a few days, occurred at the Pu'u O'o vent in the inaccessible jungles of the middle east rift zone. These spectacular eruptive episodes were separated by periods of repose that lasted, on average, about a month. A'a flows from....

the fallback of fountains moved down the steep south slope into Royal Gardens subdivision, destroying homes and covering many vacant lots.

In 1986 a fracture broke downrift from the high spatter cone of Pu'u O'o and a new vent, Kupaianaha, began erupting. This heralded a major change in the eruption; instead of the geyser-like, intermittent fountains of lava that built the Pu'u O'o cone, Kupaianaha erupted continuously. The overall rate of lava emission remained about the same, but instead of a one-day gush of lava every few weeks the eruption became slow and steady. Pu'u O'o erupted mainly a'a, but Kupaianaha poured out pahoehoe flows (see pages 30-31, Map of Chain of Craters Road (221K)).

Lava tubes formed inside the Kupaianaha flows, allowing the molten streams to flow a few feet beneath the surface and thereby conserve their heat. Slowly but relentlessly these pahoehoe flows moved down the south slope of Kilauea and into the sea. Plumes of steam laced with hydrochloric acid fumes rose where red-hot flows poured into the ocean; a fantastic sight -- a battle of the goddesses of fire and sea. New land was created; born of fire, shaped by wind and water.

During 1986-1991 lava flowed into the sea in the Waha'ula area, about 4 miles ahead of here. It covered 5 miles of road, destroying a Visitor Center and Nature Trail, but flowed around the ancient Waha'ula Heiau (temple of the red mouth) that was originally built about 1250 AD. As the name "red mouth" suggests human sacrifice was probably practiced here. As of this writing, the stone platforms of the heiau are still standing surrounded by miles of lava.

When hot lava flows into the sea it is suddenly chilled and breaks up into tiny fragments, generating great quantities of black sand. The sand is carried west by currents and deposited in embayments along the shore. At Kamoamoa, just ahead of here, a long new black sand beach was created during 1986-1991 (See photos on page 45: Black sand beaches are created (52K).... when lava enters the sea (65K)). After the flow stopped in 1991 the beach started to erode leading to much speculation about whether the whole beach would retreat to the former rocky shore. In November of 1992, though, new vents opened near Pu'u O'o, and lava again reached the sea -- this time flowing over Kamoamoa and snaking across the beach. Also in its path was another ancient temple, this one the Moa Heiau, believed to have been built to assure crop fertility. At this writing the lava flow is slowly devouring other archaeological sites as well as the grassy, palm-lined Kamoamoa picnic area and campground.

Check with the ranger on duty to learn if it is possible to hike in and see a flow. Until the Pu'u O'o eruption is finally over and the highway is rebuilt across these flows, this stop is the end of the road.



Began on January 3, 1983, from a broken line of fissures on the east rift zzone of Kilauea Volcano, evolved through four phases, and continues as of November 1992.

Phase 1: January to May 1983. Intermittant "curtains of fire" and lava fountains from vents along the initial 4-mile-long fissures system.

Phase 2: June 1983 to July 1986. More than 40 episodes of high lava fountains lasting about a day weparated by periods of no eruption lasting about a month. The single vent, Pu'u O'o, built a cone more than 800 feet high. A'a flows from this phase did not reach the ocean.

Phase 3: July 1986 to February 1992. The eruption shifted to a new vent called Kupaianaha, 2 miles down rift (east) of Pu'u O'o, and became nearly continuous. Pahoehoe flows, fed mainly through lava tubes, reached the ocean in November 1986 and in 1990 destroyed the village of Kalapana.

Phase 4: February to November 1992 and continuing. New fractures opened near the base of Pu'u O'o cone. Intermittent to nearly-continuous eruptions from these vents sent flows of a'a and pahoehhoe toward Kamoamoa, reaching the ocean in Novemeber.

ERUPTION FACTS (to November 1992)
Pu'u O'o means: Hill of the O'o bird
Kupaianaha means: Mysterious
Maximum height of Pu'u O'o: 843 feet (in 1986)
Maximum height of lava fountains: 1,500 feet
Maximum temperature of lava: 2,120 degrees F
Maximum flow length: 9 miles
Total area of lava flows: 31 square miles (6% of the surface area of Kilauea)
New land added to Hawaii: 340 acres
Total volume of lava flows: 1,600,000,000 cubic yards (enough to pave a highway circling the Earth 4 times)
Total heat energy of lava flows: 2.7 x 10^18 joules (equal to the heat in 300,000,000 barrels of oil)
Number of homes destroyed: 181



Halemaumau Trail

Starts across the road from the Visitor Center, descends through the lush jungle of the north caldera rim and crosses the barren floor of Kilauea Caldera to Halemaumau Crater and the Halemaumau parking area; 3.2 miles, 2 1/2 hours one way; Trail Guide booklet available at Kilauea Visitor Center.

Kllauea Iki Trail

Starts across the road from Thurston Lava Tube, descends into Kilauea Iki Crater, crosses the lava lake formed in 1959, ascends Byron Ledge and returns via Crater Rim Trail. Trail provides stark contrast between lush fern-ohi'a jungle and steaming crust of the young lava lake; 5-mile loop, 4 hours.

Bird Park Trail

Begins on the Mauna Loa Strip Road (see northwest corner of map on page 13, Kilauea Caldera and Crater Rim Drive (156K)); winds through mature forest of ohi'a, koa and rare native trees in large kipuka (an area of older vegetation surrounded by younger lava flows); 1-mile loop trail,1 hour. Trail Guide available at Visitor Center.

Napau Trail

Begins at Mauna Ulu parking area, crosses 1969-1974 lava flows to Makaopuhi Crater and then enters fern-ohi'a jungle to Napau Crater; round trip is 14 miles, all day, with an alternate route out to Chain of Craters Road at Ke ala Komo via the Naulu Trail from Makaopuhi Crater. Carry water and wear sturdy hiking shoes.

Halape Trail

Starts from end of the Hilina Pali Road (alternate trailhead at Kipuka Nene) and descends 2,200 feet to a small beach and shelter at the foot of high cliffs; 14 mile round trip, 2 days for sturdy backpackers; carry plenty of water. Alternate route out to Chain of Craters road at Pu'u Loa parking area via old Coastal Trail. Back country permit required; obtain at Visitor Center.

Mauna Loa Trail

Begins at the top of Mauna Loa Strip Roa at 6,660 feet and climbs 18.3 miles to the south rim of Moku'aweoweo Caldera at 13,250 feet; above 10,000 feet follows the northeast rift zone of Mauna Loa. Strenuous hike for experienced and well-equipped backpackers; snow and high winds can occur at the summit at any time of year, and altitude sickness may be a problem. Four days (2 days up, 1/2 day at summit, 1 1/2 days down); overnight cabin at Red Hill, 7 miles from the trailhead, and.at the summit. Cabins are first come, first served. Back country permit required; obtain at Visitor Center. Trail Guide available at Visitor Center.



Namakani Paio
Kipuka Nene
Picnic supplies and gasoline:
Volcano Village, two stores
Volcano Village
Volcano House
Volcano Golf & Country Club
Volcano Village
Volcano House
Volcano Golf & Country Club
Kilauea Lodge (in Volcano Village)
Volcano House
Hotel accommodatlons:
Volcano House
Kilauea Lodge (in Volcano Village)
Bed & Breakfast accommodations:
(see phone book)



Armstrong, Warwick (Editor). ATLAS OF HAWAII, Second Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983.

Bier, James. MAP OF HAWAII. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1988.

Carlquist, Sherwin. HAWAII--A NATURAL HISTORY. Kauai: Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden, 1980.

Cox, Halley. HAWAIIAN PETROGLYPHS. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1970.


Lamoureaux, Charles. TRAILSIDE PLANTS OF HAWAII'S NATIONAL PARKS. Hawaii National Park: Hawaii Natural History Association, 1992.

Kepler, Angela. HAWAIIAN HERITAGE PLANTS. Honolulu: Oriental Publishing Company, 1984.


Hawaii Audubon Society (Editor). HAWAII'S BIRDS. Honolulu: Hawaii Audubon Society, 1991.


Decker, Robert, and Barbara Decker. MOUNTAINS OF FIRE. London & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Decker, Robert, and Barbara Decker. VOLCANO WATCHING. Hawaii National Park: Hawaii Natural History Association, 1991.

Hazlett, Richard W. GEOLOGICAL FIELD GUIDE KILAUEA VOLCANO. Hawaii National Park: Hawaii Natural History Association, 1990.

Macdonald, Gordon, Agatin Abbott, and Frank Peterson. VOLCANOES IN THE SEA. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986.

Macdonald, Gordon, and Douglass Hubbard. VOLCANOES OF THE NATIONAL PARKS OF HAWAII. Hawaii National Park: Hawaii Natural History Association, 1989.



All photographs in this road guide were taken by the authors except the following: cover, Pu'u O'o eruption, 193, JD Griggs, US Geological Survey (USGS); inside front cover, Halemaumau, 1967, RS Fiske, USGS; p5, 1983, JD Griggs, USGS; p8, 1959, National Park Service (NPS); p10, TJ Takahashi, USGS; p22, Tai Sing Loo, NPS archives; p26, Bishop Museum, negative CPBM 58815; p34-35, 1969, DA Swanson, USGS; p39 top, 1983, JD Griggs, USGS; p39 bot, 1970, JB Judd, USGS; p42, 1960, R Haugen, NPS; p 44, 1978, NPS; p45 top & bot, 1990, JD Griggs, USGS; back cover, river of lava from Pu'u O'o eruption, 1983, JD Griggs, USGS.

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