Kīlauea Iki | One Photo

I’ve been to Hawai’i before. I’ve seen Kīlauea before. But even the most basic knowledge of geology and, therefore, a slightly deeper understanding of how this place came to be, made this visit to the crater so much more fascinating.

Right next to Halema‘uma‘u crater, the star of the most recent eruption, there’s the smaller Kīlauea Iki crater that last erupted in 1959. Before it was a flat plain of volcanic rock, Kīlauea Iki was a V-shaped crater filled with trees. Then, suddenly — boom. A long fissure opened in one violent event and started to spew lava. Several other vents opened and within 24 hours, joined their forces in one event.

Fountains of lava were visible from afar, the tallest one reaching 1,900 feet (source).

A new cinder cone, Puʻu Puaʻi, was formed, and when the surface of the lava lake that formed in the crater submerged the fissure, the fountains stopped. Eventually, the lake drained back into the vents, leaving behind its crust. Signs of the drainage can be beautifully seen all around the crater’s edges in the slabs of rock that lay on the sloping walls.

We hiked through the crater, guided by the ahu, or cairns — trail markers built from stacked rock. For the first half (okay, maybe only a quarter) of the hike, I managed to stay on or near the trail like any other normal person. (You’re allowed to go off-trail in the crater, as the surface is very durable, and not at all delicate like many other places.)

“Why is it orange?” I was asked by our group when we stopped near Puʻu Puaʻi displaying a big red-colored scar on its side.

“Oxidization,” I answered, and then the excitement of understanding overpowered me and I ended up running all around the crater, looking at features that wouldn’t make any sense and wouldn’t mean anything to me only a year ago. After all, what’s there to see besides a flat plain of black rock and a few mounds of more black rock?

A lot. I found a crack in the floor that was going to turn into a slab dipping under the “surface” in a few hundred years, a steam vent, a piece of a broken slab that displayed beautiful layers in which you could see how the surface of the lava lake cooled down, turning into rock,… I found a lot.

And it all meant something thanks to knowledge. In fact, it was beyond fascinating thanks to knowledge. And I only wish I knew even more, then the place would probably blow my mind even more.

(Photo) The Windy Night, The Morning of Wild Waves, The Green Turtles, And the Black Beach | Searching the Aloha

It was a bit windy at night. All right, it was a bit more windy than that. Woken up into the endless starry night sky, I realize that the thing that is pulling on my sleeping bag isn’t any animal but strong gusts of wind. Good thing I’m not sleeping in a tent – it would have probably given up on me and flown away by now.

I’m in the same spot as yesterday; on polished lava flow, only with my sleeping pad and sleeping bag. But apart from yesterday, it feels like everything, including myself, is going to get blown off the rock into the ocean. I make sure the sleeping pad is right under my body (being rarely glad that I’m the way I am and not one pound lighter so I’m not floating in the air by now), tighten the sleeping bag around my ears and watch the shining sky. It’s almost unbearably beautiful. I can’t believe how many stars there are, up and beyond what we can see and comprehend. My eyes get all teary – but that’s probably because of the strong wind.

I need to get some sleep before tomorrow (well, today) comes and so I turn my back towards the wind, close my eyes and let the sound of wild ocean sing me back to a bit uncanny sleep while my hair gets all wild, caught up in a play with the moving air (needless to say, it’s not easy to comb it in the morning).

The morning comes quick and I’m woken up into the feeling of somebody’s feet moving somewhat nervously very near my head. I open my eyes to see a plump and very friendly looking Hawaiian man. It’s the same one I saw yesterday while watching the sunrise, he’s even wearing the same raincoat (even though I don’t know what for – there’s not one single cloud in the pink-blue sky)
“Morning,” I say.
“Morning,” he answers a bit startled and then continues: “Sorry I woke you up, I didn’t know if you were all right.”
“No, no, it’s fine, I didn’t expect to sleep so long.” A moment of quiet.
“Why did you sleep here?”
“I wanted to”
“Do you have no tent?”
“I do but it’s so beautiful outside, it would be a waste not to sleep under the open sky.”
I don’t think this young man understands exactly what I’m trying to say but he must get at least a part of it – after all, he came yesterday and today to watch the sunrise – and maybe he comes here every day. Who knows?

He walks away and I collect my stuff, put it in the car and go watch the ocean, the waves, and green turtles (!) before the heat drives me out again.


  1. The Life of a Wave I. (a time-lapse)

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2. The Life of a Wave II. (a time-lapse)

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3. Honu – The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles (an endangered species of turtles, native to Hawai’i, up to 4 feet long and can weight over 300 pounds)

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4. The Palms, Sands, And Lava Flows of Punalu’u

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5. (Bonus) My ‘Bedroom’ And The View from My ‘Bed’

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Please, let me know how this way of showing photos works with you – is this good, or do you prefer to have the photos separately, one by one? Thank you so much for any kind of feedback!


The previous Searching-the-Aloha article is HERE.

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