Kilauea, Big Island, Hawaii

May 16, 2005

This is a "guest field trip report". Kitty Heacox of Hilo, Hawaii wrote
this better than I could, so I'm using her description with my pictures.

Jim and Barb Daly arrived in Hilo last Sunday. Barb has difficulty walking, so she had a cane and a wheelchair, and we knew she would not be able to participate in collecting. Also Bill was still finishing up grading exams and calculating final grades, so he wasn't able to go along either.

So on Monday Jim and Barb and I headed out in our 16-year-old Mitsubishi for the volcano. We drove down Chain of Craters road to where we could see the column of steam where the lava is going into the ocean.
Barb stayed in the car while Jim and I walked to the place where the lava last covered the road. The hike to the lava entry was too rough and far for us old codgers, so we just looked around and savored the wonders of what had been liquid rock not too long ago.
Then we drove back up to the Park Headquarters and parked Barb in her wheelchair in the small theatre of the newly renovated Visitors' Center, where she watched two movies about the volcano and explored the exhibits and collection of books and pamphlets. Meanwhile Jim and I went to the area around Mauna Ulu, a cinder cone that erupted between 1969 and ''74, and still shows steam drifting up in places. This area is still within the boundary of the National Park, so no collecting is permitted.There is a large a'a (chunky, slow-moving) flow visible as you leave the end of the road,
and then a pahoehoe (smooth, ropey, faster moving) flow revealed apparently underneath the a'a, extends to the right.
We walked over to a more-or-less straight long mound of stuff that looks like it may have fallen and been built up from fountaining---lava forming piles and drips. Sure enough, on the other side is a long crevice running parallel to the mound that must be the fissure that produced the fountains.
Beyond that we looked out over a huge field covered with lapili (bits about 1- 2 cm in diameter of scoria, pumice, Pele's tears and reticulite). Sticking up here are there are tumulus, hornitos, and tree molds. Some of the tree molds have ferns growing out of them.
Some hornitos look like giant mushrooms or ice cream cones, and Jim noted one formation that looks like a small Stonehenge portion. We looked at spectacular iridescence in small chunks as well as smooth fist-sized areas. We walked along parallel to the fissure to a place where there is a passage between two tall formations on either side, and when we walked through this "gate," the fissure opens out into large holes with smooth sloping sides brick-red in color. At the bottom of the holes about 5 to 8 meters below are mounds of lapili, looking like sand dunes.
At this point we had passed beyond the boundary of the National Park. We wandered on and examined some tumulus where pieces of iridescent plates slip off in thin sheets, approximately 3 cm across and only 1 or 2 cm thick.
I kept telling Jim that reticulite (which I call "Pele's Sponge") is often found under a small protruding ledge, like a mini culvert, where it has blown with the wind and is protected from being stomped on by hikers. Finally I pointed again and said, "That's the sort of place where you might find Pele's Sponge...wait! Look! I think there's a piece there! I can't get down on my knees...can you?" Jim is older than I, but his knees are better than mine. He got down on his knees and reached under the little ledge and felt around as I said, "No, not that one, move to the left, a bit more to the right, there! Careful!" He gently brought out one, then another chunk behind it. Tan or light brown, and looking for all the world like a natural sponge, the reticulite glints slightly in the sunlight, because it is, of course, spun glass or an open network of glass bubbles. The best site to show a lot of what we saw at Mauna Ulu is the following: scroll down and click on: Iridescent Fissure and Ice Cream Cone Walk.
After about an hour, Jim and I went back to the Visitors' Center and picked up Barb, and then the three of us headed to the southeast corner of the island where the town of Kalapana and Kaimu Black Sand Beach used to be. The small town of Kalapana was once a treasured Hawaiian fishing village. It was also the site of one of the largest and nicest black sand beaches. But in 1990, from April through December, lava gradually buried the town and the Royal Garden Subdivision under 10 meters of molten rock. A small church named Star of the Sea that Father Damien served at before going to the leper colony of Molokai was in the path of the lava. The story goes that the congregation of a nearby Protestant church met and decided to leave the matter in God's hands: if He wished to save the church, He would stop the lava. The Catholic congregation of Star of the Sea decided that God gave people talents and abilities, and that they should use them whenever possible. So they gathered volunteers to supply house-moving equipment and labor, and they moved the church out of the path of the lava, with only a matter of minutes to spare. You can see pictures at .
When Kreigh and Monica Tomaszewski were here a few years ago, we were only able to look in the windows because the church was closed. The Daly's and I were delighted to see the doors open, and we went in to look at the paintings covering all the walls and ceiling. A sign says it is now open all day, seven days a week.
We continued to the place where Kaimu Black Sand Beach used to be, and got out to look at the lava. I have been there many times over the past 15 years since Madame Pele did her paving job, and have seen lots of interesting lava patterns and colors, but not iridescence. However, this time we parked in a slightly different location, and after walking only a few meters from the road Jim and I found iridescent lava in different forms than we had seen at Mauna Ulu. Most of the Mauna Ulu material is full of bubbles and very light weight. This stuff is HEAVY and solid. Some of the iridescence looks almost like an oil slick on the surface, or a potter's raku glaze. Jim and Barb were on their own then for the next few days. They came up to our house for lunch last Thursday and left the following day. It was fun to meet another rockhound from this list. The last list member to be here was Henry Barwood with his family, and he and Jim are friends; I guess micro-mounters stick together.
Back to the Field Trip Index