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Hawai'i Volcanoes
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Hawaii Volcanoes @ National Geographic Magazine
By Jennifer S. HollandPhotographs by Frans Lanting

Restless deities, lakes of fire, the newest land on Earth: This park never sleeps.

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"Any one of nature's most celebrated wonders" will at first disappoint the visitor, wrote Mark Twain during a trip to Kilauea volcano in 1866, "but on better acquaintance will swell and stretch out and spread abroad, until it finally . . . becomes too stupendous for his comprehension."
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is like that. The shield-shaped mounds that are active volcanoes are, initially, a little hard to take in—they don't scream out "fire-breathing dragons." And the craters of past eruptions that pock the land are too severe to be beautiful, too vast for even a nature lover's open arms.
At first.
Then everything changes. Tiptoe over licorice twists of cooling lava, bathe in a spire of earthly steam, and bow closer to the fern that miraculously grabs a foothold in fresh stone. Listen to Hawaiians' tales of their volcano goddess, Pele, and begin to notice her everywhere: in debris fields of rocks blown from once fiery pits, in frozen seas of lava, in graveyards of petrified trees, in the acrid scent of sulfur dioxide that blows from Kilauea's east rift zone. Then visit her sweltering den, Pu'u 'O'o crater, where Kilauea's current eruption began explosively in 1983 and has since oozed enough lava to pave five roads to the moon. Realize, finally, that Hawai'i Volcanoes is forever a work in progress: the most volatile and dynamic park on Earth.
Congress first moved to protect the area's volcanic summits in 1916, when Hawai'i was still just a U.S. territory. Now the national park covers more than 500 square miles (1,300 square kilometers) on the Big Island, including Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes with their cinder fields, scrubby deserts, forests of ramrod koa and red-blooming 'ohi'a trees, plus swaths of rain forest so tangled that few but botanists and entomologists clamber through.
One of Pele's residences lies at Halema'uma'u Crater, which was for 150 years Kilauea's most active vent. Hawaiians and visitors from around the world come to the now silent crater's edge to worship and to leave gifts of all sorts for the goddess. "You'll see everything from fake money to raw pig heads out here," says park ranger Faelyn Jardine, who each week lugs out a trash bag of what the park service considers "inappropriate" leavings. "The preferred offerings," she says, hoisting a Hefty bulging with random groceries and a pair of baked chickens, "are chants and prayers."

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Online Extra
Get travel tips on visiting this dynamic national park.

VIDEO Watch the spectacular eruption of Mount Kilauea and experience the wonder of living lava with photographer Frans Lanting and videographer Christine Eckstrom.

Scroll through the fabulous images published in the print magazine.
Decorate your desktop with an image of a massive spatter cone in Kilauea's Pu'u 'O'o crater.

E-greet a friend with an image of a superheated river of lava breaking free of Kilauea.

More to Explore

In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
At the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, scientists measure the speed of lava the same way one would measure a moving car or baseball pitch—with a radar gun, only this one is pointed through "skylights," holes in active lava tubes. Scientists then pair this reading with the cross-sectional area of the lava tube, thus calculating the amount of lava spewing forth from Kilauea's Pu'u 'O'o crater.
—Emily Krieger
Did You Know?

Related Links
Frans Lanting On-Line
The home site for photographer Frans Lanting  and videographer Christine Eckstrom—Christine taped the Hawai'i video featured on this page—offers profiles on each, a photo gallery, book previews, and more.

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
This site includes information on what to do, where to stay, the history of the park and its volcanoes, and flora and fauna found in the park.
USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
The USGS provides a wealth of information on Hawai'i's volcanoes, including daily summaries of activity and detailed information on how data is gathered.
Hawai'i Center for Volcanology at the University of Hawai'i
Here you will find a good overview of the Hawaiian Islands.


Frierson, Pamela. The Burning Island: A Journey Through Myth and History in Volcano Country, Hawai'i. Sierra Club Books, 1991.
Stone, Charles P., and Linda W. Pratt. Hawai'i's Plants and Animals: Biological Sketches of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Hawai'i Natural History Association, 1994.
Westervelt, W. D. Hawaiian Legends of Volcanoes. Ellis Press, 1916.


NGS Resources
Barone, Jeanine. "Volcanic Vacations." National Geographic Traveler (May/June 2004), 126, 128-32.
"Summer Vacation!" National Geographic Explorer (May 2004), 2-3.
Geiger, Beth. "Hot Spots." National Geographic Explorer (May 2004), 10-15.
Glickman, Joe. "Hawaii: That Side of Paradise." National Geographic Adventure (February 2004), 66-9.
Davis, Nicole. "Among the Lava Junkies." National Geographic Adventure (February 2003), 36-9, 83.

Theroux, Paul. "The Hawaiians." National Geographic (December 2002), 2-41.

O'Neil, Tom. "ZipUSA: Waimanalo, Hawaii." National Geographic (February 2001), 126-30.

Royte, Elizabeth. "On the Brink: Hawaii's Vanishing Species," National Geographic (September 1995), 2-37.
Grove, Noel. "Volcanoes: Crucibles of Creation." National Geographic (December 1992), 5-41.


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