Over the last 33 years, when Kilauea’s Pu’u O’o crater first started erupting, more than 500 acres of new land have been added to the Big Island. Like our house, this place is growing. This summer, on July 26 at 1:30 am HST, after a three-year hiatus, lava started spilling from the crater and flowing six miles to the ocean again. How are these for coastal views?
Lava isn’t a new story in Hawaii. There are five volcanoes on the island. Only one of them, Kohala Mountain by our house, is extinct. There’s even a sixth one, 22 miles off the island’s southeast coast, which is expected to join the landmass within the next 10,000 to 100,000 years or so. Yes, our house will be finished first.
Hawaii’s black sand beaches are made from lava. When I shot this last month off the current flow, the black sand in the photo below was the newest black sand anywhere on the planet.
Hawaii’s two green sand beaches—of only four on earth—are made from lava rich in olivine.
The lava’s mesmerizing to watch when it’s moving, including at our site, where it’s rising vertically as a building material, as our outdoor showers and storage yard go up. The lava’s been hand-sourced from outside Waikoloa, where it was deposited by an 1859 flow from Mauna Loa, and a Samoan-Hawaiian-Tongan-Filipino-Kosraean-Pohnpeian-Marshall Islander team is fashioning it into walls. Along with our contractor, Lyle, who’s from Oregon.
I’ll post more photos of the showers and storage yard once they’re completed. Of course, it’s easy to find lava constructions across the island. Here’s Pu’ukohola Heiau, one of Hawaii’s last major temples, which Kamehameha built in 1791 above the Kohala Coast with stones moved by a human chain spanning 25 miles to the Pololu Valley; the clubhouse at Kohanaiki, a luxury development outside Kailua-Kona whose 65,000 square feet (complete with a four-lane bowling alley and 21-seat movie theater) make the building the largest on the island to date; and a section of the ancient Ala Kahakai trail, which runs for 175 miles along the island’s west and southeast coasts.
Not all lava at the beach is dangerous—despite the 2,100-degree Fahrenheit spewing that’s going on right now. Hawaiian legend says the lava’s the body of Pele, the mercurial goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes, who battles her sister Namaka, goddess of the sea, as she enters the water. Which can also look like this: