Hawaii – Fact Check

The volcano goddess? A multi-personality drama queen

Since its east rift zone started erupting in 1983, lava from Kilauea Volcano has been flowing continuously – so far adding more than 200 hectares of new land to the southern shore of Kilauea and covering 14 km of highway in lava up to 35 meters deep.

Photo by Toshi Sasaki / Getty Images

Hawaii – Fact Check

The volcano goddess? A multi-personality drama queen

Kīlauea, the Hawaii volcano which has been erupting almost without pause since 1983, really is, as the tourist bureau says, a “friendly” volcano.

Bill Harby
Bill Harby Writer

You can drive right up to the glowing Halema‘uma‘u. But make no mistake, volcano goddess Pele is no genteel auntie at afternoon tea. This summit crater is her storied home. Legends describe shape-shifting Pele as a multi-personality mix of sweet grandma, seductive temptress and jealous girlfriend all rolled into one hypnotizing fireball. She has her own way of doing things, even to the point of barbecuing her sister’s lover some years ago.

Since this latest eruption began in 1983, the volcano has often sent rivers of lava down the mountain to explode into the sea with dense steam plumes. No wonder Pele has always personified both creation and destruction to Hawaiians who perpetuate her legends in chant and hula. Besides my regular pilgrimages to the crater, I’ve visited the coast when lava is exploding into the sea.

Seeing molten flows steaming into the ocean, witnessing the fiery on-going birth of the planet – it has changed my life forever in some deep subtle way.

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