We are still here!!
Flowing lava, acid rain, vog, sulfur dioxide, and laze…add on an erupting volcano with explosions at the summit and it all seems scary right?? In all honesty, none of these things are new. If you have visited The Big Island of Hawaii in the last 35 years then chances are these things were happening when you were here, so why is it now so prevalent? Headlines sell papers, magazines and click throughs which in turn makes money for the advertisers and columnists. The age of the internet is making this much bigger news that it ever has been before much to the detriment of tourism for our island home.
I want to break these things down so people can get a clear picture of what is going on here in Hawaii, not one shrouded in “laze”. (see what I did there?)
Flowing lava is an inspiring, beautiful and powerful thing to see. Randy and I have been very fortunate to have been able to hike to the 61g lava flow many times before it ended. We would hike through the Kalapana subdivision (or what was left of it) which was destroyed by lava flow in 1990. Prior to that, Royal Gardens and Kapa‘ahu in 1986 were in the path of Madam Pele. By the end of 2016, 215 structures were destroyed, and 8.9 miles of highway had been buried. While what is happening in Leilani Estates is devastating for the residents, history shows they are not the first and most likely won’t be the last to be in the path of the lava.
This current flow is no where near us in Volcano Village. We sit at 3800 feet and it is downslope from us about 25 miles at sea level. Last time I checked lava couldn’t flow up hill, so we are in no danger.
Let’s discuss the laze. The laze is formed when the lava flow reaches the ocean and the particles from the lava and sea water all get mixed up together. This phenom has been happening as recently as 2 years ago when the 61g flow crossed chain of craters road and started flowing into the ocean. Lava boat tours started shuttling tourists out to see this lava going into the ocean and the laze it created all while charging a pretty penny for the experience. I admit, my 80+ year old parents even went out on a lava boat tour and had an amazing time and came back with another thing checked off their bucket list. Did I mention that lava boat tours have resumed here recently now that the lava is going back into the ocean? Be sure to only book with a licensed company.
As for vog, this has been shrouding the islands for the last 35 years in varying degrees. I remember living on Oahu in 2003 and driving down from my condo and seeing the vog hanging in the air some mornings. Depending on where you are and the trade winds there can be some hanging around. Kona typically has more vog than Volcano Village as the trade winds blow it away from us to the southwest. Let’s put it in perspective, if you have traveled to any major metropolitan cities in the world the smog there is far worse than our vog here. Do you live in one of those major cities? Come visit and give your lungs a break.
At the summit, Halema‘uma‘u, was pretty quiet for 25 years until late 2007. In November and December of that year, sulfur dioxide emissions and earthquakes began increasing. Gas emissions and tremor continued to increase during the first few months of 2008, high concentrations of sulfur dioxide around the Halema‘uma‘u parking lot were deemed to be a public threat. For this reason, the National Park closed the western portion of Crater Rim Drive to the public on February 20, 2008 and it has been closed ever since. Most recently, May 11, 2018 the park closed in its entirety while we wait for the explosion at the summit (which incidentally is NOT an eruption, there is no lava) The explosion is expected to send large rocks into the air which will land ½ mile radius and potential ash clouds. While the park is closed for safety reasons, we are in no danger here.
Living so close to the summit, acid rain caused by sulfur dioxide is completely normal. We have a filtration system for our catchment water and we also treat it to get the right amount of PH balance. While we use it for everything, if you choose not to drink it we do provide bottled water for all our guests.
If the St Louis river floods they don’t evacuate the entire state, just the area around the river. If there is a tornado in Oklahoma, they only evacuate those in it’s path, not the whole state. This is no different. Those that need to be evacuated have been. There are a lot of people who are rallying to help in various ways. The rest of Hawaii is fine, and you can help in our recovery efforts by not canceling your trip. You’ll also get to experience a bit of history in the making.
If you’d like to get a detailed history on the current eruption (by current I mean the one that has been happening for the last 35 years) go to the the USGS website. They have a very comprehensive history about the current eruption period from the beginning of January 3, 1983 to the 61g lava flow in 2017. https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/kilauea/geo_hist_1983.html