Hot real estate here, come and get your red-hot real estate!
I am referring to a certain phenomenon in the island nation I called home for over half of my life - Hawaii. I say nation rather than state because the Kingdom of Hawaii, a sovereign nation, was illegally invaded and occupied by the USA in 1893, so that rich American land owners could do business without the interference of the much beloved Queen, Liliuokalani. In spite of support from President Grover Cleveland, whom she had met personally, she was forced to give up her throne in 1898. Sound like a vaguely familiar pattern? Those who fail to learn from history... Many Hawaiian people still maintain their sovereignty and demand to have control of their lands returned.
The Queen was quite an accomplished musician, by the way (as was her brother, King Kalakawa) and played piano, organ, guitar and ukulele. She wrote over 150 songs including the world famous 'Aloha Oe'.
The marvel I am referring to, of course, is the very active volcano named Kilauea on the Island of Hawaii. You many not know that Hawaii reaches further South than the State of Florida - and Kilauea is far from finished. It still keeps pumping lava from deep within the earth's crust into the sea, expanding the land area of Hawaii. Beneath the sea, volcanic activity to the South of Hawaii is building a new mountain on the ocean floor, which someday will break the surface of the ocean to become an island of its own.
Last year we flew to the Big Island, so called because it is bigger than all the other islands of Hawaii combined, and undertook a hike to see red-hot lava pouring into the Pacific Ocean.
Rather than fly on one of the two major airlines that serve Hawaii with 150 passenger jets, we took a small rival, Pacific Wings, which flies single engine turbo-prop, ten passenger Cessna Caravans. Lower altitudes and big windows mean better views, and besides, they have several flights a day to our destination rather than the two offered by the 'heavy iron'. As a pilot myself, I like riding in smaller planes. It is more like real flying as opposed to the 'spam in a can' bus ride one gets on a big jet. Besides, I can keep an eye on the pilot. Another benefit of Pacific Wings is the lack of long lines to board or even to go through one of those Orwellian, Constitution bending, 'security' screenings at the gate.
We had a beautiful trip along the East coast of Maui, past Hana - "oh, there's George Harrison's house on the cliff" -and across the rough Alenuihaha channel to the Big Island. We cruised past Waipio valley, the very cradle of Hawaiian civilization, along the Hamakua coast, once a major sugar growing region, and on into Hilo, capitol of Hawaii County. The air was smooth and clear, the views of the coast, inland waterfalls, and Mauna Kea volcano, simply stunning.
From the airport, we went out to Kilauea National Park and visited the Kilauea Caldera, museums, and walked through the Thurston lava tube, stopping for lunch at the hotel located on the rim of Kilauea crater. This is the domain of Pele, Hawaiian Goddess of fire and creator of land. Sometimes she appears in the firey lava as young beauty, other times as an old woman. There are many Hawaiian legends about this important figure in Hawaiian mythology.
[An aside here. Forgive me. The car that we rented was a GM product, a company that is now facing great financial difficulty. I say, let them go peacefully into oblivion and let the government help the employees transition to a new, truly productive life. Have these people - management and workers alike - ever driven a Toyota? If they had they would know why their company is bleeding billions and is doomed to the old "dust bin of history". There! I feel better for having vented my anger about being forced to drive such a piece of .... but I digress.]
That night, we stayed at a B&B just outside of Hilo. The property is located in a macadamia nut orchard on 22 acres by the edge of a a gorge with a 120 foot high waterfall in the back yard. Nice room, nice people, awesome scenery. Should you ever go to Hilo, I highly recommend this B&B: The Inn At Kulaniapia Falls
The next morning we took in some local sights, such as Rainbow Falls, and then stopped at a grocery store and stocked up on supplies for a picnic lunch. We made our way back to the national park by a circuitous route which took us through another park of lava encased ferns and along the coast where earlier eruptions had cut off roads and formed black sand beaches when the lava crystallized as it hit the sea.
Finally we drove through the main entrance of the National Park and down the very long and winding road to the coast where all the action was. Dropping K off at the road's end (where lava has covered it) I drove back to the first available parking space about 1/2 a mile up the road - Madam Pele has many disciples.
The park service had marked a trail using reflective tape every so many tens of meters across the new lava toward where the present flow was occurring. We hiked across the lava for about an hour and came to a sign, which basically said, "that's all folks", we won't guarantee your safety beyond this point. In fact, in 1998, a bench of new lava had calved into the sea, taking one sightseer with it.
Of course, a whole lot of people went on. I was hesitant, coward that I am, until hearing from a returning hiker how neat the lava flow was to see.
Another hour of hiking over new lava flows still warm under our feet brought us to where we could view the hot lava. The rock under our sneakers was still warm. What we witnessed was not a large flow (maybe that was a good thing), but rather it was piping into the sea from small tubes at the edge of a cliff. Three tubes were sending red-hot lava out and into the sea, as if from a garden hose. Clouds of steam rose as it made contact with the water. One tube was running very slowly and just dripping great globs from the point.
It was both fascinating and invigorating to say the least, and worth every effort and risk to watch up close, the Earth, some 4 billion 550 million years old now - still hot, still churning, and through Pele, making new lands in the middle of the vast Pacific.