Kilauea: Facing the Fire

Main | Part 2

“You never know what direction she decides to flow.”

“If you don’t leave yourself completely understanding to nature’s way, then you’ll be surprised.”

Lava creates, it destroys, all while offering something so very primal, even pre-historic. It is the very essence of earth creating itself.

At the center of it all in Hawaii is Kilauea. Translated, Kilauea means “spewing” or “to spew,” something the volcano has been doing almost continuously throughout most of our lives.

Puu Oo eruption
Puu Oo eruption

Kilauea is by far the most active of the five volcanoes that form the island of Hawaii. At 300,000 to 600,000 years old, it is also the youngest of Hawaii’s volcanoes, but it has certainly made the greatest and longest-lasting impression.

“Kilauea erupts frequently. It’s erupted probably a third to a half of the last two centuries,” said Jim Kauahikaua, research geophysicist and former scientist-in-charge at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

In more modern times, lava from Kilauea has changed the very landscape of a special place so many have chosen to call home, places like Kalapana.

“You could just feel their love for the land trees and rocks and the land and the hurt, but never anger,” said Harry Kim, former Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator and former Hawaii County mayor.

Kilauea’s most recent eruption is also its longest-lived. Beginning in 1983 with spectacular lava fountains, it ultimately consumed Chain of Craters Road, the village of Kalapana as well as the subdivisions of Royal Gardens and Kalapana Gardens.

PART 1 INTRO MASTER current lava
Lava flow

And it’s not over.

More than three decades later, Kilauea’s most recent flow threatens new towns and the lives of an entirely new generation. People who’ve lived with the knowledge that Madame Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, does not discriminate.

KHON2’s Howard Dashefsky, Marisa Yamane and photographer/editor Ken Mashiyama were granted exclusive access, escorted by Hawaii County Civil Defense off the paved road to the active lava flow.

The images are breathtaking, and the stories from the community equally as powerful.

When the lava comes, nature wins, but for all Kilauea has consumed, it has also given birth to new land and an unbreakable spirit, bringing communities together and giving residents a greater understanding and appreciation of the world around them.

“For me, I’m always reminded by the words of our kupuna, our ancestors: Healii kaaina e kaua ke kanaka, the land is chief, we are just mere servants,” said Puna resident Piilani Kaawaloa.

Does the past lend any clues to what the future might bring and is there any end to Kilauea’s fury in sight?

From the science to the emotion, it’s all here on “Kilauea: Facing the Fire.”

You can watch the special online in its entirety, or tune in for our special rebroadcasts. On KHON2: April 1 at 9:30 p.m., April 12 at 6:30 p.m., April 26 at 6:30 p.m. On CW: March 29 at 6:30 p.m.

Kilauea ohia steam vents

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