Monday, August 1, 2016
MY PERSONAL ENCOUNTERS WITH PUU OO CRATER
I was on the 10th hole of the Volcano Golf Course on 3 January 1983 when the ground shook. Soon we were astonished to see a line of orange fountains only a few miles away. Located on the eastern rift zone of Kilauea Volcano, Puu Oo has continued to erupt now for more than 36 years.
In 1986 the lava flow finally reached the ocean, 7.5 miles from the cinder cone. Mark Forman, a staff member of U.S. Senator Dan Inouye, indicated that he and the Senator would be taking a helicopter tour of the Big Island, and if I wanted to join them. Turned out Senator Inouye's schedule was such that he could not be there, so with some reluctance, the pilot took us out anyway.
We went up and down Hiilawe Falls in Waipio Valley...
...landed at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii, where I felt like General Douglas MacArthur arriving in the Philippines. At that time I was secretary of the NELH Board (before it became the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority) Most memorable of all was when we kept flying around the island and hovered right over the ocean where the lava was flowing into the sea:
I took the above photo in the midst of cinder spatter pinging all over the aircraft. It occurred to me that this was rather dangerous, but we made it back to Hilo. That might have been my most exciting two hours of flying ever.
This eruption has destroyed 189 buildings, closing the coastal highway since 1987. Lava is up to 115 feet thick over the road. Fountains as high as 1510 feet were measured. Two years ago lava flowed right up to the town of Pahoa, but just stopped before destroying the community.
Last week, Puu Oo treated the world to a smiley face:
more lava has flowed from this eruption than anything else of the past five centuries. Tourism no doubt has been greatly assisted by this 36-year attraction, but I fear the air pollution problem is much more serious than publicized. Even Honolulu now and then is affected to the point where I avoid the outdoors. My personal encounter with Puu Oo has been exciting, but the reality is that this eruption has also been disruptive. Is that really a smile above or a grimace? What if this natural pollution continues for another century?