Kilauea’s Hot Summit

Travel Blog  •  Pam Mandel  •  06.09.09 | 12:48 PM ET

Photo by Image Editor via Flickr (Creative Commons)

It used to be that you had to go to the end of the winding Chain of Craters road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park if you wanted to get a look at hot melted planet. I’ve never done it—once the road was closed due to excessive volcanic activity, and once there wasn’t time and once ... Oh, my excuses are endless.

But if you’re on the Big Island right now, you don’t have to make that trip. According to the L.A. Times, Kilauea is “glowing brightly as molten lava swirls 300 feet below its crater’s floor, bubbling near the surface after years of spewing from the volcano’s side.”

Especially awesome about this new activity? You can see it right from the Jagger Museum in the park. From a park press release, “The overlook is open 24 hours a day. Starting Friday, June 5th, rangers will be on duty and the museum will stay open until 8:00 pm.”

You can’t hike down there—the trails are closed because of vog and hey, it’s an active volcano, people!—but bring your binoculars and that long telephoto lens to get a closer look. I’d tell you to hurry up so you don’t miss this amazing sight, but when you’re talking about geology, that could mean go now, or sometime in the next decade, or sometime in the next century. Up to you.

And if you’d like some vintage footage of Kilauea doing her thing back in 1959, there’s a four part series produced by the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service on YouTube. Sweeping sound track! Blazing plumes of lava! Brave scientists stepping out on the thin crust of the earth! Here’s part one, for your educational pleasure.

Pam Mandel is a freelance writer and photographer from Seattle, Washington. Her work has appeared in a variety of print, radio, and web publications and she's contributed to two guidebooks, one on British Columbia and one on Hawaii. She plays the ukulele, has an internal beacon that is surprisingly capable of locating the best baked goods in town, almost any town, and speaks German with a Styrian accent. Learn more on her personal blog at Nerd's Eye View.

6 Comments for Kilauea’s Hot Summit

Chris 06.09.09 | 2:23 PM ET

“Oh, my excuses are endless”

WorldHum is one of the few places where you have to make excuses for NOT getting really close to an active crater. :-)

Gary Reichel 06.09.09 | 3:40 PM ET

A trip to the big island is always incredible ...but seeing this would make the journey a little extra special.

pam 06.09.09 | 8:50 PM ET

@Chris: L-O- freakin’-L: point well taken! I’m pretty sure it’s an essay question for WH writers. “Discuss why you did not enter a toxic live volcanic zone. Don’t forget punctuation!” Snork.

Bryan 06.10.09 | 1:15 PM ET

Just to let people know. You can’t see the actual lava lake from Jaggar. Only the glow. If your lucky to catch it on a clear night it’s worth seeing. Full moon is best. Lunar rainbows are frequent when the moon is low to the horizon and of course rain has passed by.

pam 06.10.09 | 11:06 PM ET

Thank you, Bryan, for the details! Even though you can’t see the actual lava, it still sounds like an amazing sight. Full moon on the top of a volcano? Sign me up.

Bryan 06.10.09 | 11:15 PM ET

Your welcome Pam. It is an amazing sight. Dress for cold weather up there. Mid 40’s to mid 50’s at night.

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