Unusual Tourist Sites: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Part 1

About the unusual tourist site of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, history and information.

Hawaii, Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park . . . When Hawaii was accepted as our 50th State, not everyone in the other 49 States knew that part of our sister State included very lively volcanoes which have a habit of acting up every 3 or 4 years just to show people they are still potent. There is a town, called Volcano--named after Vulcan, the ancient Roman fire god--built on the rim of a volcano on the "Big Island" of Hawaii (the other 3 major islands are Oahu, Maui, and Kauai). Many of the residents of Volcano are scientists who live and work around smoldering volcano walls and steam-emitting fissures in the ground.

While each of the Hawaiian Islands was basically created by volcanic action, only Hawaii has active volcanoes, with the massive Mauna Loa (13,680' high) and Kilauea Crater (4,077' high) host to this scientific community as well as being parts of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The scientists call these volcanoes "domes" because of their roundish shape; they don't have the sharp cones of a Mount Fujiyama in Japan or a Mount Vesuvius in Italy, and don't issue the fumes and burning boulders associated with violent eruptions. The reason for earth's beneficence of lesser explosiveness is that the lava here doesn't contain much gas.

Approximately 16 mi. down the mountain slope one can see the lava pools and steaming crevices of the gaping Kilauea Crater. There is a narrow ledge between this crater and the smaller Kilauea Iki, but the smaller crater--as if trying to make up for its lesser size--has been the most active recently with its fire shooting convincingly high into the sky. Mauna Kea, a few miles north, is about 100' higher than Mauna Loa, but is inactive.

The town of Volcano, characterized by ordinary houses and lawns, centers around the glowing volcano pits. Facilities located on the northwest rim of Kilauea Crater include seismographs to measure shocks and tremors of the earth, with other instruments to gauge heat and detect tilt in the earth's surface. samples of minerals, cinders, and cooled lava are constantly under analysis.

Unlike some other areas of this planet, warnings (the seismograph's needles do a sudden dance as the earth rumbles and quivers) that the volcanoes are up to their old tricks bring people scurrying to watch the unique fireworks, while the National Park Service rangers check to make sure everyone watches from a safe vantage point.

Eruptions usually begin with a crack opening along the crater floor. Lava pours through this fissure, sometimes hurtling high into the air. Initially, these lava fountains appear to be a rather bright and intense yellow, but as the cooling lava falls back to earth it turns reddish (it's still hotter than 2,000 deg.). If you see people with umbrellas it is because the steam, rising as clouds, sometimes condenses into water and returns as rain. There is a sort of rainbow effect then, as you see the rose and gold from the red-hot caverns diffused through the raindrops.

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