Hawaii 2012 - Day 12: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park - Kilaueau Iki Crater Hike

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Travel Blog

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Deposition of elemental Sulphur along the Sulphur Banks Trail

Today was a day of familiar things. Our hotel was of course the first thing we already knew. But we deliberately went out for breakfast at another site from the past: Ken's House of Pancakes. This diner is really a great place to have an affordable meal in a nice atmosphere. Apart from many pancakes they serve the famous "Ken's SUMO Kombo", every time when someone orders this dish a huge gong is hit and the whole staff yells "SUMOO!" Really cool! Although, every time when I hear a gong I have to fight the urge to yell "SUMOO!"

Filled by a stack of precious Macadamia pancakes for me and strawberry pancakes for Mr. Stephan, we headed to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Established in 1916 Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park was the 11th National park to be created, and the first one in a US territory (Hawai'i only became a state in 1959).

The Kilauea Iki Trail is clearly visible from the rim of the Kilauea Iki Crater
The park encompasses two unique volcanoes. The 4169-meter (13679-feet) high Mauna Loa, the most massive volcano in the world. And Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Kilauea has been erupting lava non-stop since 1983.

Kilauea is impressive as a lava producer, as the youngest surface volcano of the state it is not as high as the giants Haleakala (Maui), Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa. Its caldera is located at about 1200 meters (3900 ft) which makes it easier to explore than Haleakala. This is also the place where the park's visitor center, museum, and the majority of the trails are located. The crater road around the caldera has been closed for a long time due to the presence of the toxic Sulphur Dioxide gas (SO2), which is escaping the carter.

In, on and below the dead rocks life has continued
A live situation of the SO2 concentration at the visitor center and museum can be seen here.

We looked out over the huge Kilauea caldera upon the now hardened lava fields dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, and in the distance the Halema'uma'u Crater, the steaming pit that is currently holding the 2012 lava. Then we made a small hike over the Sulphur Banks Trail. A very cool (or hot?) hike in a landscape near the caldera rim, filled with crevices from which lava heated hot steam is flowing. At some places the reddish iron rich grounds have huge deposits of yellow elemental sulphur. For me, as an inorganic chemist graduated on desulphurization, a pleasure to walk around.

The lava layers are sometimes broken up

Then we moved to the Kilauea Iki Crater, which is Hawaiian for "Little Kilauea Crater". This crater was filled with lava in 1959. The events were very forceful. A lava fountain of about 320 meters (1050 ft) high was a normal occurrence for several days. The fountain sometimes reached as high as 580 meters (1900 ft), much higher than the Empire State Building (of "only" 381 meter / 1250 ft). The crater has cooled down, hardened and is now accessible for hikers. Actually this was the main purpose for our visit: Finishing something we could not finish in 2009... On the 16th of August 2009 (see here) I wrote in my blog: "A beautiful trail leads along the rim and eventually down. We, unfortunately, did not have time for the latter.

Steam and SO2 coming from the Halema'uma'u Crater in the Kilauea Caldera
" So, today we reserved time and headed down (122 meters / 400 ft) into the crater.

The trail, the Kilauea Iki Trail, by itself is already a pleasure. It is like hiking through a jungle, but with great views into a crater. We hiked the trail in a reversed direction, so we entered the trail far away from the original eruption point. 52 years after the eruption, the rocks deep below are still so hot that rainwater seeping into the cracks flows out as steam. An impressive sight. The closer we got to the point of the original eruption, the more chaotic the scenery became. Many cracks, lava walls, and stones.

At the end of the day we returned to the big Kilauea Caldera at the Jagger Museum. A ranger had advised us to do so. The activity in the Halema'uma'u Crater is currently very high.

In the darkness of the evening it is possible to see the glow of the lava deep down below in the pit being reflected upon the crater's walls and on the emerging steam. It is indeed a remarkable sight. Although one cannot see the lava the whole appearance looks very lava-ish. As a bonus one can hear the rocks of the crater crack because of the huge thermal forces. While I looked at it and the only thing that came into my mind was "SUMOO!"

More pictures, and a movie, below! Deze fake-tekst heb ik toegevoegd om net iets meer regels te genereren zodat deze rare website toestaat dat de bijgesloten foto ook vertoond 

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Deposition of elemental Sulphur al…
Deposition of elemental Sulphur a…
The Kilauea Iki Trail is clearly v…
The Kilauea Iki Trail is clearly …
In, on and below the dead rocks li…
In, on and below the dead rocks l…
The lava layers are sometimes brok…
The lava layers are sometimes bro…
Steam and SO2 coming from the Hale…
Steam and SO2 coming from the Hal…
Breakfast: Macadamia Pancakes at K…
Breakfast: Macadamia Pancakes at …
Kilauea Caldera
Kilauea Caldera
The Halemaumau Crater in the Kil…
The Halema'uma'u Crater in the Ki…
Steam coming from crevices at the …
Steam coming from crevices at the…
Steam coming from crevices at the …
Steam coming from crevices at the…
Deposition of elemental Sulphur al…
Deposition of elemental Sulphur a…
Deposition of elemental Sulphur al…
Deposition of elemental Sulphur a…
Deposition of elemental Sulphur al…
Deposition of elemental Sulphur a…
The thermal heat can sometimes be …
The thermal heat can sometimes be…
Deposition of elemental Sulphur al…
Deposition of elemental Sulphur a…
Descending into the Kilauea Iki Cr…
Descending into the Kilauea Iki C…
Descending into the Kilauea Iki Cr…
Descending into the Kilauea Iki C…
Descending into the Kilauea Iki Cr…
Descending into the Kilauea Iki C…
Arrived at the floor of the Kilaue…
Arrived at the floor of the Kilau…
In, on and below the dead rocks li…
In, on and below the dead rocks l…
Your reporter busy taking the prev…
Your reporter busy taking the pre…
The lava layers are sometimes brok…
The lava layers are sometimes bro…
The lava layers are sometimes brok…
The lava layers are sometimes bro…
The floor of the Kilauea Iki Crater
The floor of the Kilauea Iki Crater
Close to the point where the huge …
Close to the point where the huge…
The lava layers are sometimes brok…
The lava layers are sometimes bro…
Pleats of lava
Pleats of lava
The lava layers are sometimes brok…
The lava layers are sometimes bro…
The lava layers are sometimes brok…
The lava layers are sometimes bro…
In, on and below the dead rocks li…
In, on and below the dead rocks l…
Close to the point where the huge …
Close to the point where the huge…
Another view on the Kilauea Iki Cr…
Another view on the Kilauea Iki C…
Reflections of the lava glow on th…
Reflections of the lava glow on t…
Reflections of the lava glow on th…
Reflections of the lava glow on t…
Reflections of the lava glow on th…
Reflections of the lava glow on t…
Reflections of the lava glow on th…
Reflections of the lava glow on t…
Reflections of the lava glow on th…
Reflections of the lava glow on t…
The Kilauea Iki Crater during the …
The Kilauea Iki Crater during the…
GPS image of the Kilaueau Iki Trai…
GPS image of the Kilaueau Iki Tra…
GPS Height profile of the Kilaueau…
GPS Height profile of the Kilauea…
The Kilauea Crater in Hawai'i Vol…
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
photo by: mrgishi