Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hawai'i: Volcanoes

Hawai'i is the only place where you can get close to an active volcano. These days, Kiluea is not erupting in violent explosions (like Mt. Saint Helens), but lava is flowing. In the picture above, the silver-colored rock was molten lava just a day or two before.

Here you can see a coast that is still being formed by continuing lava flows:

The steam you see is where hot lava is flowing into the ocean through a lava tube beneath the surface.

Here's what's left of a town that got caught in a lava flow back in the 80s:

This is Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain on earth. You say, "But I thought Mt. Everest was the tallest mountain on earth!" Well, Everest contains the highest point above sea level. But Mauna Kea is a volcanic mountain that starts on the ocean floor and rises to a height of over 33,000 feet! Of course, only 14,000 of those feet are above sea level. Still -- a 14,000-foot tall mountain is quite impressive!

Notice the observatories on top of Mauna Kea. Because of its location in the middle of the Pacific, Hawai'i has some of the clearest air on earth. It's a prime location for stargazing and astronomical research.

Mauna Loa is another of Hawai'i's large volcanic mountains. Whereas Mauna Kea is the tallest, Mauna Loa is the largest mountain in the world (again, measured from the bottom of the ocean where the mountain really begins.)

When you first get off the plane in Kona, on the Big Island, the first thing you see is black lava. Everywhere. It looks like really big chunks of torn-up asphalt. At first it's kind of ugly. After awhile, though, it grows on you.

Driving from Kona to Waikoloa and Waimea, you are surrounded by lava fields. Every now and then you'll see a lava cave:

That's David and Lauren exploring a lava cave. They're wearing bathing suits and flip flops. Why? Because this lava cave is literally right by the side of the road! We were on the way back from snorkeling when they asked to stop and check it out. When I took this picture, I was not more than a few feet from the car.

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