Hawai’i Volcanoes & Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau
We visited two parks when we went to the Big Island in 2007.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Hawai’i Volcanoes surrounds Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano, and the smallest of the three mountains which make up the big island. This is the youngest volcano of the Hawaiian chain. It is still smoking, rumbling, creating land, and occasionally destroying houses.
There are a number of craters scattered around the mountain. The largest is the caldera, with the Halema’uma’u crater in the middle. In the 19th century, this was a lake of molten lava, but it’s much quieter now. It did cough up some boulders one night while we were there, but mostly it just smokes. Kind of stinky sulphurous smoke as you can see from the picture with the sulphur around the fumaroles.
Next to the caldera is the smaller Kilauea Iki crater and the Pu’u Pua’i (the hill). One of the rangers we talked to lived in the park as a child and remembers this hill forming from a fountain of lava which shot hundreds of feet into the air. He was a funny guy. At the beginning of our hike with him, he pulled out his walky-talky and told the main office to turn on the sun and the bird noises for us.
You can hike down into Kilauea Iki and across the floor and back in a couple of hours. By the way those cliffs in the distance are the far edge of the main caldera, about 2.5 miles away. Walking across the floor of the crater is kind of like what you would imagine the surface of the moon is like, but without the funny clothes, and more gravity too, I guess.
Nowadays, most of the action is down the mountain near Pu’u Ō’ō. When we were there, there had been a series of earthquakes earlier in the summer which blocked everything up. When we left at the start of our trip we weren’t sure we’d get to see anything as most of the roads in the park had been closed because they weren’t sure what would happen next. Things had settled down and the roads had just reopened when we got there. The lava still hadn’t started flowing again down by the ocean, but that end of the park was still pretty cool. It’s the windward side of the island, and it’s completely barren because of all of the lava flows. There are also swirls of vog everywhere. The result is rather unearthly.
Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau is also known as the place of refuge (particularly if you are having trouble saying the Hawaiian name – Tom is the only one of us who can still rattle off the Hawaiian). In the old days, if you had broken a law for which the punishment was death, then your one chance was to try to make it to this peninsula on the western side of the island. If you could make it there without being caught, then you were safe.
Tom really liked the ki’i. He wants to look just like them when he grows up.
One day, when we were visiting the park, a large number of native Hawaiian volunteers were there showing how to make local Hawaiian crafts. We learned how to make head garlands out of flowers, …
… and toy fishes out of palm leaves. We also tried homemade kava which looked and tasted like dishwater, although it was relaxing.
There were a number of woodworkers there. We spoke to one of them who makes drums and mentioned that we were visiting from Boston. That got a reaction. He remembered getting stuck in Boston for a couple of days when a snowstorm shut down Logan and his flight got cancelled. It wasn’t all bad as he went up to Salem to visit the Peabody Essex while he was stuck here staying with a friend. He remembers it as having one of the nicest collections of Hawaiian artifacts he’s ever seen. The whalers from the Boston area would often spent the winters in Hawaii. A lot of the artifacts they brought back ended up in the museum.