Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The gigantic cloud of noxious gas in 1924 billowed from a "dazzlng lava lake" in Halemaumau Crater, which is within the larger Kilauea Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. Since first seen by Westerners in 1823, some two-dozen eruptions have taken place at this home of the volcano goddess Pele. In 1974, a blazing curtain of lava burst hundreds of feet and covered Crater Rim Drive. Pele was quiet for a few decades after that, until 3 a.m. March 9, 2008, when the tourist's viewing platform was blown to smithereens and several acres were covered with debris. (A daytime eruption would have been catastrophic.)
Crater Rim Drive in the park, as well as several trails, have been closed since then. Visitors can view Halemaumau from the nearby Jaggar Museum, where scientists keep watch over the volcano. On certain days, the volcanic plume increases in volume, causing more extreme closures in the park. BTW: The Halemaumau eruption is separate and several miles away from the Pu'u O'o eruption on the east rift that has been sending a lava river into the ocean since 1983--destroying dozens of homes.
Check your Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer for hikes nearby. The Thurston Lava Tube and Iki Crater are highly recommended.