By far the most amazing thing to see on the Big Island of Hawaii is the Kilauea Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Because it is constantly changing, you never know what you might witness when you visit. In the 1990’s we were able to drive to the very end of the Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and actually watch the rivers of molten lava pouring into the ocean below. That was one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen – the hissing of the lava as it hit the water and cooled, forming new land while we watched!
We weren’t that lucky this time. Recently there had been a gas explosion, the first since 1924, in the wall of one of Kilauea’s craters, which threw huge rocks into the crater floor and over the rim, causing the closure of parts of the park, including the end of the Chain of Craters Road. The park superintendent determined that the high concentrations of sulfur dioxide gasses, which resulted from this explosion, could be dangerous if inhaled. These gasses are also responsible for the haze that sometimes floats over Kona, a haze the islanders call “vog.”
On this trip, we were able, though, to view the crater that had caused all this damage at its source near the visitors’ center, and that was pretty amazing! (That’s the crater in the photo at the top). This part of the park makes you feel like you’re on another planet – a completely barren, black landscape with steam coming out of the middle of it. There is a rainforest in another part of the park, where the lava has not yet destroyed the vegetation.