Volcano Day!

We were all very excited for this morning as we were scheduled to take a helicopter tour of the volcano park. The weather looked a little iffy as a series of rain storms tracked over the city (although our condo remained dry).



But the weather turned nice quickly enough and we were off to the Hilo airport for our tour. My lovely wife Charlene and older daughter Nicole were assigned the front seats. Younger daughter Michelle and I were in the back.



Also flying with us was a mother-daughter combo from Dallas, the latter of whom looked like Julia Roberts (to which she replied, "I get that a lot."). Our pilot was a retired US Navy chopper pilot who had been flying with our tour company for about 8 years.

The chopper tour was nothing short of spectacular as we got to fly over various parts of the active Kilauea volcano.



One of the real treats we seeing a brand new "skylight" - a collapsed roof on a lava tube that allows you to see the flowing magma underneath.


This one was formed just a day ago.

We also got to see the lava slowly flowing into the ocean.



As we circled back around we saw a small batch of trees on fire, set ablaze from the heat of the lava, and our pilot both showed us the remains of an entire subdivision that had been wiped out by a giant lava flow.

After about 50 minutes we were safely back on the ground.



Following a quick lunch back at the condo we drove to the Volcano National Park to do the terrestrial portion of the volcano exploration.

I quickly learned two things:

First: In about several thousand years, all of the major Hawaiian islands will be subsumed under the neighboring tectonic plate. So don't make any long-term real estate deals.

Second: the "hot spot" in the Pacific that created all of the existing Hawaiian islands is working on a new island that will emerge in about 18,000 years. Not only does it already have a name ("Loihi") but it's already been claimed by developers ("Hilton").

I also learned that volcanos are very dangerous and can kill you in more ways than the standard "burn off your arms and legs following a light-saber duel resulting in you becoming an evil cyborg bent on Galactic domination and Force choking minions."

For instance, volcanos can kill you by coating your lungs with glass if you get too close and breathe in the steam. Seriously. At least, that's what one of the national park staff told us as we watched a giant steam plume waft up from a crater. He then helpfully added, "So don't go down there."



In all seriousness, though, that big steam plume is enough of a health hazard - as it also contains sulphur dioxide - that the park has been forced to indefinitely close some of the roads downwind.

So we decided to explore some of the more life affirming parts of the park, such as Devastation Trail, which used to be a forest and now, thanks to a big steam eruption about 50 years ago, looks like the surface of the moon - if the moon had handy trail maps and was overrun by tourists in Tapout shirts.


We also checked out a lava tube, which is an underground tunnel carved from molten rock. This was very cool.



I set up my portable tripod and took a family photo.



All in all, it was a tremendously fun and active day doing something that you'd never, ever get the chance to do pretty much anywhere else in the world.

Tomorrow: We're heading back to the volcano park to do a four mile hike onto an old lava field. Think "hiking on a glacier" but with far more explosive potential.
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