Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hawaiian Goddess Pele Dances

Kilauea Volcano's Pele on Hawaii's Big Island has recently been a bit more cantankerous than usual. Kilauea is the Hawaiian word meaning "spewing" or "spreading out" in reference to the lava flow. "In Hawaiian mythology, Pele, pronounced /pele/, (peh-leh, not pay-lay) is the goddess of fire, lightning, dance, volcanoes and violence," per Wikipedia described myths.

"Pele Dancing" was captured by Katia Krafft while she was photographing the lava streams flowing down Mauna Loa Volcano during its 1984 eruption...and this dramatic nighttime photograph shows her (Pele) exulting in her awesome volcanic power" per CSAV. (Enlarge by clicking on the photo at this University of Hawai'i at Hilo site for The Center for Study of Active Volcanos--CSAV. Read also about photographer Katia and husband, Maurice's tragic volcanic end in Japan in 1991.)

Trade winds during this current April 2008 Kilauea eruption have not been cooperating to keep the sulphuric fumes away from populated areas. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park had to be closed Tuesday 4/8/08 and some 2000 people had to leave the area. Several nearby communities on this Hilo side of the island were recommended to evacuate voluntarily including Volcano Village whose surrounding area is home to many artists and their studios.

I have loved ones living in one of those communities, so as you might well imagine I have been quite interested in news of Pele's activities and the trade winds directions. Wednesday an explosion blasted rocks 230 feet into the air from Halemaumau Crater where noxious gas continued to rise as reported by the U.S. Geological Surveys Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. USGS Kilauea

The Los Angeles Times print edition Fri. 4/12 includes a United Press International report the northeasterly trade winds have returned to push the sulfur dioxide away from visitor areas according to park officials.

KITV news reported the Volcanoes National Park reopening and the Honolulu Star Bulletin carried Sudhin Thanawala's United Press report on the pollution effects from volcanic fumes.

A Great Britain humanities scholar Dr. Ralph Harrington writes about Kilauea at "The Volcanism Blog" in his April 9th blog post.

National Geographic has a current photo of lava flow (Note: I found I had to move my cursor frequently over this short one minute video to keep it playing.)

National Geographic also as a short series of volcano videos, each a very few minutes duration including the last one which describes this continuously active since 1983 Kilauea volcano of the "shield" type. Keep in mind the Krafft couple who lost their lives as you watch this new young couple of Volcano Adventurers. (note: there are two brief commercials)

John Seach, described at his web site as "one of the world's leading volcano adventurers" reports on Kilauea at "Volcano Live," -- "the world's first volcano news and travel website, which monitors worldwide volcanic activity."

Fortunately, during this present Kilauea eruption the trade wind change means the air in surrounding communities has likely been cleared of the noxious sulphuric fumes. Several Hilo news sources speaking of Volcano Village reported the Big Island mayor said Weds. he had declared a lowering of the color coding alert system from the dangerous purple to yellow, but was expecting to go to the desired green code when the trade winds changed direction as they now have done.

My families many years of Big Island residence encompassed the volcanic event in 1983 when some significant loss occurred in some areas other than their immediate community. One family member had been part of a group helping remove and save some materials from an endangered visitor's center threatened by lava flow.

Residents are respectful of Pele but take all this action quite in stride, exercise precautionary measures as needed, but generally are nonplussed by it all. Stationed here on the mainland with bits and pieces of scattered sound bite news reports and awesome television and Internet photos I must confess to feeling just a bit less secure about their situation than they do. I'm quite cognizant that in times of trouble contacting others isn't always easy and must wait until some semblance of calm and stability has been established. I have so few family members still living, I may have come to experiencing undue concern for those remaining.

Their voices, especially, or messages from them or others always reassure me. We've generally said in our family, "no news is good news" based on the premise that bad news has a way of travelling fast. I embrace that idea, but I'm not so sure, even in this day and age, that's quite true. In fact, I've found it not to be on occasion.

Now with all the airlines bankrupting and going out of business, especially Aloha Airlines which ferried them about so much, I think about how much more complicated quickly leaving that island could be. Still they give no thought to leaving. Just another day on the Big Island that Pele reminds us all is shared with her.

As I complete writing this post I visited again the U. S.Geological Survey (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) Friday, April 11, 2008 Daily Up Date is the last one posted. For the volcano this is a short summary at the beginning of the report:

19.42°N 155.29°W, Summit Elevation 4091 ft (1247 m)
Volcano Alert Level: WATCH
Aviation Color Code: ORANGE"

I'm glad the trade winds changed to blow any noxious gases away from Big Island populated areas. I hope whatever mythical Hawaiian god or goddess is responsible for those winds directions they continue blowing as they are.


  1. I have been completely fascinated by volcanoes since I was young. We were on the Big Island in 1984 when Kileauea started erupting, although we left that morning and flew to Maui. We had been in Volcanoes National Park the day before and saw several steam vents, but no lava. When I found out that we had left the island just as it started erupting, I almost cried because I had missed my chance to see it.

    BTW: I had one of the most memorable meals of my life in Hilo!

  2. That was very interesting. Tonight I read in the paper that Oregon is getting swarms of small quakes of a type they have not heard before off the coast. They said that they are the kind generally connected to a volcano but no volcanoes where the quakes are occurring... Makes you wonder...

  3. I suspect the residents take Pele in stride as much as Californians take earthquakes in the same way. I, however, probably wouldn't be quite so 'chill' about these things. I hope your loved ones continue to stay safe Joared....and that you aren't too stressed out worrying about their situation. I guess 'no news is good news' might be the best way to deal with these kinds of situations....and that when you do hear any news.... it's all good.

  4. My last major trip with my late husband was to Hawaii and we visited Volcanoes National Park. I was awed by the enormity of the volcano and decided that I would never live on an island that had an active one. Seeing Pompeii left me with a huge fear of them.

    Thank you for your informative piece on the topic.

    P. S. Also, thank you for your encouragement on writing a blog. However, I am intimidated by you and Ronni. I could never come up to your standards.


  5. How interesting - these items never make it into what I regularly read. Do you go visit?

  6. The power and beauty of nature is endlessly fascinating and constantly at work changing and shaping our land. I've always wanted to see a volcano up close and personal but know that I would be terribly intimidated. I am so impressed with the ease that the inhabitants of the island live with their firebreathing dragon.

    May the Goddess of wind keep your loved ones safe.

  7. This is a fabulous body of research. I am so sorry you are doing it of necessity. Thanks for sharing your fascinating journey. May they all be safe.