The majestic Mount Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii is a shield volcano which began erupting in 1983 and still hasn’t stopped today. Being one of the largest active volcanoes in the world, Kilauea (which means”spreading) continues to be the primary attraction that draws visitors to the Big Island. Located in the famous Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea’s current on-going eruption draws its lava from 60 km in the ground, through the volcano’s own internal plumbing system. The fiery molten ooze explodes from the tip of the volcanic cone (called”Pu’u’O’o” meaning”high point on the skyline”) and cascades 11 kilometers down the volcanic surface (or”Pulama Pali”) to the Pacific Ocean. This stunning picture of black stone surface, orange fire, rollicking sea waves, and the smoky volcanic fog that surrounds this natural wonder is a complete must-see for anyone who visits the Big Island.
Mount Kilauea’s first known eruption was about 300,000 to 600,000 years ago; and aside from the eruption that began in 1983, it has erupted 34 times since 1952; those eruptions add about 40 acres of new land each year, explaining the moniker”Big Island,” which if measured from the ocean floor is higher than even Mount Everest. Hawaiian folklore is replete with stories of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, volcanoes, violence, lightning, and dance, who resides at Mount Kilauea (and was, incidentally, throw as a villainess in DC Comics’ 1990s name,”Superboy”). Legend has it that due to a familial squabbles in a house with more 15 siblings, Pele escaped from her house in Kuaihelani and came to the Big Island’s Mauna Loa. Endowed with wonderful powers by the Fire God, Lono-makua, Pele was famous for her profound love and rage towards her family and her many love affairs, also oftentimes marked by anger: a lot of the young mortals she seduced were not lucky enough to escape the fistfuls of molten lava she hurled at them through her fits of jealousy and anger.
Even after the old religion was abolished in 1823 by the missionary, Reverend Ellis, locals continued to worship and pay homage to the goddess Pele, making offerings of fruit, flowers, and fish to soothe her fury and to thank her for her generosity in expanding the terrific land of Hawaii with her perennial eruptions. It’s thought that the perennial lava flow from Kilauea can pave a road three times round the earth!
Today visitors from all over the world can come to pay homage to the passionate Pele and her fiery home of Mount Kilauea. Ground tours offer travelers an opportunity to really walk alongside the active vents of Kilauea and even learn a bit of the volcano’s history. Some helicopter tour companies will even hover over the opening of Kilauea, providing visitors with awe-inspiring aerial views of the volcanoes.