Saturday, 29 November 2008

Christmas shopping on a volcano

Most people go Christmas shopping at the local mall but late this afternoon I went to an active volcano instead. My family in Europe love the videos produced by the Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park and so I drove up there late this afternoon to buy the latest DVD about the current activity. I'm sure I could have done this online but doing it this way was more fun.

Above is a panorama taken from the Kilauea overlook and I finally think I managed to get a decent panorama stitched together, even without using a tripod! To be honest, it was so windy I don't think a tripod would have helped, but at least the strong wind kept the plume from blowing over us with its rather poisonous sulphur dioxide (SO2).

I even took a video of the plume yet despite its short length, only 12 seconds, it's 35-megabytes and a bit beyond my dial-up capabilities, so perhaps later...

In lieu of the movie, a close up of the vent and plume:

On the way back to the car park, er, parking lot, the view of Mauna Loa was relatively good although it's a long way away.

After buying the DVDs my plan was, in the limited amount of daylight left, to drive down the Chain of Craters road to a point where I could take a picture of the lava entering the ocean. Unfortunately, the entry zone is a long way from the end of the road and a long hike is necessary at the moment (it changes from month to month, year to year) so I thought I'd at least get a shot from a point where the road starts to drop down the pali (Hawaiian for "cliff") and you get a decent look over the whole coastline. My optimism waned (as did my opinion of American spelling!) when I saw this...

...and the vog from the ongoing eruption at the Pu`u `O`o crater (Kilauea is currently active in two places). The view was going to be obscured and when I arrived it was confirmed; too much cloud and vog. On the other hand, while trying to get a decent photo of the lava entry from miles away, I turned around and took this instead:

Interesting colours to say the least, helped by some dust on the camera lense. The sun was starting to set behind some high cloud to the west and the thick vog was to the east. The coastline was dead ahead, about 1500 to 2000 feet below. I was starting to feel unwell...

I've lost count of the number of times I've visited the volcano and have never felt the effects of the SO2 and all the other nasty stuff in the volcanic plumes, but at this point I was getting a headache and my eyes felt as though I'd been rubbing them with sandpaper. Maybe I shouldn't have ignored all the warnings after all. So I headed back and I'm glad I did, because I saw a few sights I've not seen before.

You need to click on the image above, but it shows the volcanic plume from Kilauea being blown and twisted down the pali at sunset. The wind was so strong at this point that I gave up leaving the car and took the picture through the windscreen (USA translation: windshield). The vog was bad enough, but I also have very wiry and curly hair which I've not had cut for a couple of months now, and the wind was so strong I had a bit of an Albert Einstein look going on...

At this point I was lucky enough to witness the setting sun appear in a small gap in the clouds and Kilauea's plume. I love this shot (again through the windscreen):

Enough was enough. I really wasn't feeling well so decided to leave and not take any more photos, but I did try one more. There is a road that goes around Kilauea's crater but it's been closed for months now and this is one end of it. The blurring is not deliberate, it was completely accidental but I like the result, it looks quite interesting! It also looks a bit like the way I felt at this stage, so it really was time to go home.

There was, however, a quick stop to look back at the red sky on the way back to sea level. I saw this in my rear view mirror and just had to stop.

12 comments:

Keera Ann Fox said...

Ooh, so many good and interesting photos! I like the one of the highway with the odd colors and the last photo with the pink sunset.

Re sulf/phur: I thought it looked odd, too (and wanted an e at the end, as well), and looked it up. You're not going to like what my computer's dictionary says ;-) :

"In general use, the standard U.S. spelling is sulfur and the standard British spelling is sulphur. In chemistry, however, sulfur is now the standard form in the field in both U.S. and British contexts."

Tom said...

The important part of that is "in chemistry". The rest of science, and the empire will still use "sulphur". ;)

damontucker said...

Nice Blog!

I only now found and have added it to my blogroll.

Tom said...

Thank you, damontucker! I've been looking for local blogs and hadn't come across yours. I've been planning to add a blogroll of local blogs and yours will be on it!

Tom

EdGarTravels said...

i stopped too to take some pictures of the sunset tonight as i headed into Hilo for dinner....

i live on paradise ala kai and am unsure what the heck is up with all the for sale signs.... speculators?

Tom said...

EdGarTravels - I really don't know. A lot of those houses have been built in the last 3 or 4 years and I always assumed that they were bought by people on the mainland who had made their money and were retiring here. Now I'm wondering if they were built by speculators, here or on the mainland, that thought they would make a lot of money selling houses on a beautiful coastline.

I don't know if those houses have ever been lived in. I know some have but the newer ones?

Tom

Protege said...

Fantastic pictures Tom! The photograph of the sun is particularly alluring. It must have been a very exciting day for you. What a completely different November day than the one we can spend here.:)

alice said...

Shazam! Spectacular set of photos!!! And, as always, your narrative is fascinating. Thanks for letting us tag along (and for taking the SO2 hit for all of us)!

Ant said...

Hi Tom,

I think you've resolved my Xmas gift woes as well. I always struggle to get something interesting for my dad, and as a geologists he loves the mountain and the volcano. A video of the latest activity would be perfect for him.

Good to see you photos, and that your panorama stitches are coming together. Is that hugin?

Hope you're feeling better now.

Cheers
Ant

Tom said...

Protege - I can't even begin to describe how much I miss the seasons you experience, but at least there are some things here to make up for that!

Alice - thank you! I got gassed yesterday, much more than I thought would ever happen, but the symptoms seem to be short-lived!

Ant - I wish I'd told you my plans! I'd have been more than happy to pick up a copy of their latest DVD for you. The latest is "summer 2008" so it should include the latest activity at the summit.

I didn't use hugin for the panorama but I've downloaded the software - I just haven't read the manual yet!

Boy, that vog is nasty right now. If you visit Kilauea soon try and stay inside the car as much as you can on the Chain of Craters road!

mirmilant said...

Manual?! You don't read manuals do you?

I was observing this morning and we came off the summit at around noon. The vog was really high, you could see it all the way up to the 10,500ft mark or so. Not sure that I've ever seen it that bad up here, have you?

Cheers
Ant

Tom said...

Of course, I always read manuals first!

I'm pretty certain I've seen vog right up at the summit. Supposedly it can't get up that high but recently I would swear I could smell and see it at 14K feet. SO2 has a strong feature at 3.3 microns if I recall correctly, so I wonder if some of the IR telescopes might be able to detect it...