Hawai‚Äôi Volcanoes National Park is home to five colossal volcanoes: Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea. Two of which, are the most active Volcanoes on Earth, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Both volcanoes are still adding to the big island of Hawai‚Äôi to date. During the Spring 2015 voyage‚Äôs stop in Hilo, Hawai‚Äôi, professor Steve Anderson‚Äôs Geohazard and Natural Disasters class had the opportunity to view these volcanoes up close and personal.
The first stop was to the United States Geological Survey‚Äôs Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, where students talked with Research Scientists, Dr. Michael Poland and Dr. Don Swanson. These two scientists lead discussions regarding systems that are in place to monitor volcanic activity. Throughout the observatory, thermal and visual webcam monitors lined the walls, as well as devices to detect ground tilt, ground movement, and seismic & SO2 gas measurements.
Outside of the observatory, students witnessed Kilauea Caldera and Halemaumau crater. This round crater is about a mile across and inside hosts an even smaller crater that is home to a vigorous lava lake.
After a short bus ride to the trailhead, students hiked the four-mile Kilauea Iki Trail. This trail starts in a tropical rain forest along the crater’s rim and descends about 400 feet to the crater floor. This shockingly large crater astounded both students and curious day-hikers alike. Embarking on an out-of-this-world experience, the class hiked across enormous dried heaps of lava. As they wandered along, students predicted the environment inside the crater to be similar to that of Mars.
More than a feeling, it turns out astronauts were indeed trained in Hawai‚Äôi Volcanoes National Park due to similarities between the crater‚Äôs floor and the surface of the moon. Professor Steve Anderson shared with his field lab, between 1965 – 1972 astronauts came to Hawai‚Äôi for their first geologic training exercises. The first group to train inside the park included the famous crew of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins ‚Äì as well as the crews from Apollo 12 all the way to Apollo 17.
Hiking through the breathtaking crater, it‚Äôs easy to imagine the history that lies above and beneath the solidified lava within Hawai‚Äôi Volcanoes National Park.
All photos by Scott Minard