24 July 2006

Into the Fire: Volcano, Part 2

We actually got home this evening, so I've got a bit of catching up to do. Moving back in time again to Volcano, I had previously gotten to the point at which we headed down Chain of Craters Road to see the lava flow by night.

Chain of Craters is an 18 mile-long (30km) road leading past the remnants of several lava flows, both ancient and modern to the field from the current eruption. In 2003, the end of the road was covered by new flow, so it now ends abruptly at a ranger station, which had to be moved a mile closer in from the road's previous end to escape the flow. As we drove down the road in the dark, we weren't able to appreciate the extent of the old flows, but when we got to an overlook at 1000 ft. altitude, we could suddenly see this in the distance (enlarged more than the later photos, so please excuse the shift in proportions).


When we drove back down the road the following day, we could see that that particular glow was from the lava flowing into the ocean. Here's the view during the day, when all that's visible is the steam plume.


We continued on to the end of the road and proceeded to walk out onto the lava field for about a mile, but the glows never seemed to get any closer. I had brought my binoculars, though, so we were able to get some good views of both the steam plume and a skylight up the mountain that looked like this at 9PM


but by midnight had opened up to look like this.


We could potentially have hiked another several miles and gotten closer to the lava, but we had already done a fairly strenuous hike that day and the terrain was both very irregular (lava rarely lays itself down in neat layers) and very sharp, being surfaced with shards of shiny black volcanic glass. As it was, I still got blisters (with well broken-in boots, no less) and we were still able to see some pretty humbling views of it.

And as if just seeing the lava weren't exciting enough, as we sat and watched the flow, the moon, which was just past full, came out from behind the clouds and shone on the water. And when I looked up over the side of the mountain, I was able to see a hazy but perfect arc which struck me as fairly odd. As I looked a bit more closely, though, I could make out faint bands of color - it was a moonbow!

Now I can safely say that I've traveled more than the average person and probably seen a good bit more than the average person, but a rainbow at night while sitting on the side of a volcano watching lava flow into the ocean? I don't think I'll ever top that one.

1 comment:

Carol said...

Holy crap! What amazing photos!