Volcano! A drama worth watching
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   Earth is literally in the oven on the Big Island of Hawaii. Here, the legendary volcano goddess, Madame Pele, is in the kitchen atHawaii Volcanoes National Park. In a big caldera bowl, she mixes molten lava at 2000 degrees and pours it through lava tubes to reach the ocean.
   Pele has been doing this on and off for millions of years. Starting at Kure Atoll, she began whipping up recipes to pour into mountain molds. She spread her island cookie chain across a blue ocean tablecloth to form the Hawaiian Archipelago we know today. A new island—already named Loihi—is Pele’s latest geologic recipe. The seamount is slowly erupting from the ocean floor and destined to surface off the Big Island within the next 200,000 years.
The Big Isle’s Kilauea Volcano, which has been “in the oven” or continuously erupting since January 3, 1983, marks its 27thanniversary this week. Scientists say there are no signs it’s going to stop anytime soon. The county has declared January “Volcano Awareness Month.”
   To many Big Island residents, the ongoing eruption “has always been around.” Though in geologic time, it’s a blink of the eye. Since 1983, Kilauea has engulfed more than 180 homes, bisected roadways and destroyed treasured historical and archaeological sites. In 1990, lava overtook picturesque Kalapana Black Sand Beach, one of the isle’s most scenic locations.
   Kilauea’s latest drama began in the spring of 2007 at Halemaumau Crater in Volcanoes Park. A large plume of gas gushed from a vent in the crater wall and small explosions spewed rocks and lava droplets. Now at night, a haunting incandescent glow can often be seen coming from the crater’s wall from the overlook at nearby Jagger Museum.
   I’ve visited the overlook twice at dusk, staying into the night to be mesmerized by the raw beauty and power of volcanism. The spectacle of seeing earth-in-the-making is certainly one of those ah-ha moments and spectators flock to the site. They tow cameras perched atop tripods to photograph the eerie red-yellow-orange light emanating from the vent. Scientists say the glow comes from a lava lake about 200 feet below the crater’s surface.
   With that fact in mind, a visit inside Jagger Museum is all the more worthwhile. Here, seismographs record any earthquakes, which rangers explain could signal the movement of lava in the crater. While watching the many seismograph needles dancing across paper, you wonder WHEN and IF the volcano is going to “blow” anytime soon right outside the door. It is truly science in action and exciting to watch.
   For an experience you’ll remember for a lifetime, I recommend you come witness the drama of Kilauea Volcano soon as there’s no telling what Pele may be up to next. For the latest spewing scoop, including eruption video, visit the following resources: the Hawaii Volcano Observatory at hvo.wr.usgs.gov, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at nps.gov/havo/ and the County of Hawaii’s lava viewing program, lavainfo.us/
Fern Gavelek