Hawai'i, Lavaqua at Pu'u'O'o 

Hawaii 2002, photographed from Martin Rietze


Again a hawaiian backpack full of lava impressions of the smooth lava flow from the eastern flank of the Pahoehoe toe and the Pulama pali region from Summer 2002. But this time the lava flows reached the coast and what for impressive contrast of elements Martin Rietze got before his camera you can see at this site. 


W. Highcastle entrance

In occasion of a journey to the Hawaii archipel it's always a good idea for volcanically interested to visit at least for a short time Big Island. There, in one of the most active volcanic zones of the earth activity is actually always present. Unfortunately during my attendance in spring 2002 the entire activity decreased to the limit for the Pulama Pali region on the at present only active crater  Pu'u'O'o. Around this areal and to reach the flows it requires good local knowledge and watchfulness. In this highly situated area a durable prohibitation exists, pretendly with the reason of the very dangerous area. Prohibitions like this mostly exist keeping tourists away and really doesn't  explane anything over possibly material dangers. Therefore I decided at the 25.4.2002, to take the way more than 10 km alone to the Puu Oo.


2 pictures left: Before the emergence of the W. Highcastle of entrance. Picture right: Pahoehoe of 25.4.south of the P'u'u'O'o.

Above all the Pulama Pali showed that the area became indeed dangerous. Not in case of  the certainly existing lava and all kind of anorganic steams althought of the particularly fragile Pahoehoe crust. This breakable surface covers the whole area and I broke through under each third to tenth step. The caves in the lava layer were deep up to 2 meters and in addition, the small cavities can destroy  by inevitable breaking through the trousers and your legs and ancles. Therefore my way ended a few hundred meters before the P'u'u'O'o cone between an 'active' Aa- lava flow and some new fresh Pahoehoe breakups, between the existing Rootless Shields which collected the entire lava in former times and kept  the coastal region free of lava over a long time.

Unfortunately strong nocturnal heavy rain showers shattered the planned bivouac (a tent didn't participate anyway in the over packed  rucksack ). Therefore I decided in the humid condition a night stomping lasting for several hours on a numerous of Aa lava fields. In contrast of the day, the lava - specials become visible when you are already stiking inside and you aren't able to surround them any more. Descending the light declining plane I arrived approximately at 3 o'clock in the morning. But I managed it ' fabulous ' that in the wide laminar gently dropping area I had to climb downward the only steep stage with its fragile edge of 10 meters before the coastal plain to reach my place.


Picture left: Before the emergence of the W.Highcastle entrance. Picture right: Pahoehoe on 25.4. south.of the P'u'u'O'o

Interesting was a 'Skylight' which was visible already from the distance at night. Through these openings you can have a view to the underground lava stream hidden in tunnels. Note: the better, although further way ( in any case 2-day route ) to the Puu Oo is the western trail over the Napau-crater.

Full moon-lit Pahoehoe field south of the Puu Oo at 25.4.03

After the rough and not productive tour in spring 2002 I decided spontaneously to fly again to Big Island, because (surprise!!) a few days after the 25.4. a large new developing lava stream took directly  course to the coast and the lava touched over months the sea. Because of ordering short term flights to Hawaii with enormously financial hurdles, I had to wait until September. Punctually at the end of August every lava flow stopped entering the sea at Willipe'a..


Fortunately the most western entrance named Willipe'a began to reactivate, and so I could observe in the evening of the 15.9.2002 directly at the end of the chain OF Craters Road the beautiful sea entrance. A further stroke of luck was that the individual points of entrance could be seen only from the east. In addition the still steaming lava field  with active lava tunnels had to be exceeded and this natural barrier held back the numerous tourists at the road ending behind the shut-off positions and permitted an unimpaired observing in complete isolation.



2 pictures left: Willipe'a of entrances in the evening of the 15.9. Right: Highcastle entrance

Also the handful photographers, who recorded daily the situation for the HVO (Hawaiian Volcano Organisation) were only in the early morning present. A particularly impressive experience of a new sea entrance happened at the Western Highcastle a few hundred meters further east. In the same evening a small lava cascade ran over the old 7 meter high old steep cliff to the lower plateau before the surf zone.


Crusted Pahoehoe lava south of. Puu Oo to 25.4.

During my 2nd and 3rd attendance in the morning of the 17.9. and 18.9.02 the new entrance was already in sea contact. The Willipe'a multiple entrances with some small changes seemed steady active. Unfortunately the last entrance could be observed only from the distance because you weren't able to get the insight from the cliff because underneath the waves did stroke all the time the bizarre coast. But on the 18.9 the new Highcastle entrance could be seen clearly by climbing down. The reduced activity made it possible reaching directly the point of entrance. At this place continious new formed lava lumps as big as fists were wiped away by each new wave again. (entrance photos, part I)


M.Rietze, I believe left. This photo offers also a good size comparison!


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2002, Photos and Text Martin Rietze, translation Th. Boeckel, last modification 18.3.2003

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