The majestic Mount Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii is a shield volcano which began erupting in 1983 and hasn’t stopped today. Located in the famous Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea’s current on-going eruption draws its lava from 60 km in the earth, through the volcano’s own internal plumbing system. The fiery molten ooze explodes in the tip of the volcanic cone (called”Pu’u’O’o” meaning”high point on the skyline”) and cascades 11 km down the volcanic surface (or”Pulama Pali”) into the Pacific Ocean. This breathtaking image of black stone surface, orange fire, rollicking sea waves, and the smoky volcanic fog that surrounds this natural wonder is an absolute must-see for anybody who visits the Big Island.
Mount Kilauea’s first known eruption was probably about 300,000 to 600,000 years ago; and aside from the eruption that began in 1983, it’s shrunk 34 times since 1952; these eruptions add about 40 acres of new land each year, explaining the moniker”Big Island,” which if measured from the ocean floor is greater than even Mount Everest. Hawaiian folklore is replete with stories of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, volcanoes, violence, lightning, and dancing, who lives at Mount Kilauea (and was, incidentally, throw as a villainess in DC Comics’ 1990s title,”Superboy”). Legend has it that because of some familial squabbles in a house with more 15 siblings, Pele escaped from her home in Kuaihelani and came to the Big Island’s Mauna Loa. Endowed with great powers from the Fire God, Lono-makua, Pele was famous for her profound love and rage towards her family and her many love affairs, also oftentimes marked by anger: many of the young mortals she seduced weren’t lucky enough to escape the fistfuls of molten lava she hurled at them during her fits of jealousy and anger.
Even after the old faith was abolished in 1823 from the missionary, Reverend Ellis, locals continued to worship and pay homage to the goddess Pele, making offerings of fruit, flowers, and fish to soothe her fury and to thank her for her generosity in expanding the terrific land of Hawaii with her perennial eruptions. It is thought that the perennial lava flow from Kilauea can pave a street three times round the earth!
Ground tours offer travelers a chance to really walk alongside the vents of Kilauea and even learn a bit of the volcano’s history.