Tuesday, Jun 9, 2009
By day, a volcanic plume drifts high over Halemaâumaâu crater. It is wispy and translucent; at times tinted by pink ash and grey bits of spatter.
At dusk, rangers, scientists, and visitors gather at the sceneâs best vantageâthe overlook at Jaggar Museum.
As the sun sets behind Mauna Loa, darkness reveals what daylight conceals. An intense orange glow tells of the molten lava lake sloshing and churning in a vent 300 feet below the crater floor.
The glow is the biggest and brightest since the summit eruption began in March 2008.
USGS scientists credit the good views to the wispiness of the plume and the relative shallowness of molten lava.
And the word is out.
âCome join us for yet another glimpse at our own wonder of the world," said superintendent Cindy Orlando.
Perched high on the rim of Kilauea caldera, the overlook is open 24 hours a day and staffed by rangers into early evening.
Nights are cool on the volcanoâs 4,000 foot summit. Winds gust and temperatures drop into the 50s. Visitors snuggle in beach towels, share binoculars, and use a zoom lens to focus in on the activity a mile away.
For Native Hawaiians, Halemaâumaâu is the sacred home of their deity, Pele, whose poetic name is ka wahine o ka lua, âwoman of the crater.â
The earth shudders, the glow intensifies, a hush falls, and then a whisper, "Aia la o Pele, there is Pele."
You can view the lava lake at http://gallery.usgs.gov/videos/118 . The June 3rd video (actual speed) shows the lava lake, with its surface disrupted by waves, splashes, bursting gas bubbles, and spatters of molten rock.
You can also check the Halemaâumaâu webcam at http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/cams/HMcam/ .The camera looks into the vent and records color during the day (mostly fume) and light intensity at night.