The famous volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii began erupting early last month. For many visitors planning their trip to Hawaii, the news of the Kilauea eruption may have been confusing and concerning.
The eruption is an extreme event that has led to evacuations in part of the Big Island. But the eruption is also natural occurrence. And the volcano itself is very significant and spiritual for the people of Hawaii.
It is safe to travel to Hawaii
First and foremost, know that travel to the islands is safe (really).
The eruption is occurring on the Big Island, one of eight islands in the Hawaiian chain. The Big Island is about 200 miles away from the most populated island of Oahu. And even within the Big Island, the lava is erupting on only a very small portion of the large island.
The eruption has displaced homes, and its impact is certainly severe for those who live nearby. But the vast majority of the Hawaiian Islands is perfectly safe and is still welcoming visitors with classic Hawaiian hospitality.
Kilauea eruption history
Kilauea eruptions are not uncommon throughout history. Records of the volcano erupting date back to 1790, according to the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Center for Volcanology. The center also has records of multiple explosive eruptions since the early 1900s. In fact, the eruption rate has been consistently growing since 1924, according to the center.
When the volcano is not erupting, there is still near-constant lava activity. Many visitors traveling to the Big Island of Hawaii count on the opportunity to experience live-flowing lava. Year-round tours by boat or helicopter give travelers a unique glimpse into the center of the Earth.
And across all of the Hawaiian Islands, evidence of volcanic activity can be seen everywhere from black-sand beaches to some of Hawaii’s most iconic landmarks, such as Diamond Head. Hawaii sits on a ‘hot spot.’ As its land masses have shifted over thousands of years, the hot spot has created each island.
It’s true that without the volcano, there would be no Hawaiian Islands.
The volcano’s cultural significance
Hawaiians are very aware of the role that the volcano has played in the creation of their home. Many local legends center around the ancient Volcano Goddess Pele.
She is a creator and a destroyer, and she is known to have quite a temper. One story describes her father kicking her out because of her tumultuous emotions. Interestingly, other local legends describe the fragile relationship between her and her sister, the Sea Goddess Namakaokahai.
Pele is said to have seduced her sister’s husband, leading to an epic battle between the two. To this day, visitors can see the sisters confront each other at the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, where lava pours into the ocean.
Read about more Hawaiian legends
Kilauea is a fearsome and powerful volcano. But its eruptions have been happening for centuries. And without it, the tropical paradise of the Hawaiian islands would not exist.
Featured Photo by Buzz Andersen