A Word About “Daredevil” Lava Photos
Captivating photographs of lava taken at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and outside the park go viral through the media and Internet regularly. These images include everything from kayakers paddling onto highly hazardous lava benches with lava pouring into the sea around them, to a photographer who used an accelerant so lava would ignite his shoes and tripod. These actions are extremely risky, potentially deadly, and in the latter case, deeply offensive to many Hawaiians, who consider lava to be the physical embodiment of volcano goddess, Pele. Poking sticks into Pele, spraying her with chemicals, and similar actions are disrespectful to a culture deeply tied to this dynamic landscape.
While the national park does not prohibit access to the lava from Kīlauea currently pooling on the coastal plain, and periodically flowing into the ocean near its easternmost boundary, park officials remind the public to use common sense and caution when viewing and photographing lava flows. Be prepared for an extremely grueling hike, carry at least 3 quarts of water per person, wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes or hiking boots, pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Bring snacks and a flashlight. Always check with rangers to see what conditions are like, how far the flows are, and what closures are in place. (Scientists at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory report that coastal flows inside the park boundary may now be inactive).
And please, remember to practice cultural respect in the park, and wherever you are in Hawai‘i.