Mention Hawaii and the first thing that comes to mind are the pristine beaches. What is not as well known is that Hawaii's Big Island is also home to some of the world's most active volcanoes, including the spectacular Kilauea! While the dynamic volcano has been erupting almost nonstop since 1983, some years, the amount of magma coughed up is larger than others.
In 2012, the volcano explosion was so large that the molten rock flowed across seven miles, all the way into the Pacific Ocean. This year there have been no massive eruptions. Instead the lava flow which began on June 27, has stayed close to the ground, burning through the mountainside forest as it slithers through the cracks at a steady pace of 250 meters (850 ft.) a day.
But instead of flowing down the hill and into the ocean as it usually does, the lava is heading east and is now within 0.8 miles of the Ka'ohe Homestead, a rural community comprising of 30 families. The imminent threat to the residents caused Hawaii's mayor to declare a state of emergency on September 6th.
Under the order, access to the Ka'ohe Homestead roadways is restricted to the residents of the area. Though the officials haven't enforced an evacuation order yet, they have asked residents to be prepared to leave at short notice.
Also in danger of being submerged is a portion of Highway 130 near Pahoa. Experts estimate that the lava could get to the area within a month if it continues flowing inside the cracks.
While the process could extend out a few months if the molten rock emerges and spreads across the surface, authorities are not taking any chances, and are scrambling to find alternate routes for the area's 8,000 residents.
Given the constant excitement caused by Kilauea, it is hard to believe that it was once considered to be a satellite of its much larger neighbor, Mauna Loa, that lies about 20 miles away. However, further research revealed that it is indeed a full-fledged volcano, complete with its own magma-plumbing system that extends more than 60km below the earth's crust.
Like all of Hawaii's volcanoes, this one too has an interesting legend. According to ancient folklore, Kilauea, which means 'spewing' or 'much spreading' in the local language, is the home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess. Believed to be born in Tahiti, she was one of six girls and seven boys born to the earth goddess.
According to the legend, Pele was exiled by her father, the creator of the Universe, and shipped off to Hawaii. Once here, she created havoc in all the islands, digging fire pits and creating volcanoes. Her sister finally caught up with her and killed her in an epic battle near Hana, on the Hawaiian Island of Maui.
Following her demise, Pele dug her final and eternal pit on the Big Island, at the summit of the Kilauea Volcano. The locals who worship Pele as a goddess, believe that she still resides here and often come with offerings to appeaseher. So staunch are their beliefs that when some Ka'ohe Homestead residents requested officials to try divert the lava flow away from their homes, others pleaded them to let it run its course. They believe that if Pele feels the need to clean their abodes, they should let her! Hopefully, the goddess will show her appreciation by naturally re-directing the lava flow, and saving their homes!