Trekking to the Ocean Flow…the Hard Way!
On Friday, January 4, 2013, three rangers from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park trekked out to pinpoint the GPS coordinates, check signage, and measure the distance to the latest flows from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō to seep across the coastal plain and into the ocean – within park boundaries. These coastal flows are currently much closer to Kalapana, with some lobes entering the ocean outside of park boundaries, nevertheless, it’s important to know the distance of these flows in the park, so we can adequately inform park visitors.
Thus, we set out at 10:15 a.m. from the end of Chain of Craters Road. It was a grueling and difficult 13.6-mile roundtrip adventure over hardened lava, uneven and unforgiving terrain known as the flow field. There isn’t a trail per se (lava from Kīlauea keeps covering up this section of the park), but there are reflective markers that lead from the end of Chain of Craters Road to beacons that number 0 through 7. It’s about three miles to beacon #7. The current flows are approximately another four miles past #7. We encountered 20 mph headwinds, with occasional higher gusts, and the sun was hot! But we made it, took GPS readings, and enjoyed Pele’s ocean entry from a safe distance. We managed to get back to our vehicle by 6:22 p.m. – just a fraction before darkness fell. Do the math: that’s a 10-hour trek for rangers who are accustomed to these conditions, and we didn’t linger long. Weigh the options carefully before you commit.
If you decide to go: you must be extremely prepared, and in good physical condition! You don’t need a permit, but we can’t emphasize preparedness enough! Carry at least three liters of water per person — that’s 3.17 quarts, almost one gallon. Wear long pants and durable hiking boots, bring a good flashlight, and extra batteries. Sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat are necessary, and be prepared for rain, too. Gloves are a good idea, as black lava is sharp as glass. Pack lots of snacks, you’ll be glad you did. And above all, watch where you’re going. There are earth cracks and lots of opportunities for injury.
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park offers this short but informative lava safety video on its website: http://www.nps.gov/havo/photosmultimedia/lava-safety-video.htm
Coincidentally, a team of USGS scientists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory also made the trek to the coastal flow at the same time, but from the Kalapana side, and their photos from “the other side” were blogged here earlier this weekend. They also uploaded a map of the new flow field on the USGS site:
And here’s a photo essay (from an iPhone) with captions from the park rangers’ long trek from the park side. We hope you enjoy and learn from it.