Hawaii Lava Fields

If the summit of Mauna Kea looks like another planet, then Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, also on the Big Island, looks like the Earth turned inside out. 

The park covers the Kilauea volcano, which is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Many of the lava fields in these pictures are very recent, the oldest ones are from about five hundred years ago and the most recent ones are just a few years old.

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I remember seeing the lava fields for the first time in Iceland. They have this unique look of viscous liquid that froze or solidified. But the Icelandic lava flows I have seen are much older and are covered with moss. The more recent flows on the Big Island are completely barren, and you can feel that the geological and the human scale converge here. 

Remarkably, people also manage to live on these brand new lava flows. There used to be a subdivision near the shore called Kalapana Gardens that got devoured by the lava flows in the 1990s. Those lots can still be bought, and the prices are bargains considering that you get an ocean view. And because many original owners live on the mainland and simply abandoned their properties, squatters settle in, too. Some of these houses are even listed own Airbnb. But living there is extremely tough: there is no electricity apart from what you can generate from wind or sun, no fresh water apart from what you can collect from the rain, and no soil apart from what you can haul in. And you are in constant danger of having your house destroyed by the next lava flow. 

Unfortunately, as we were passing through Kalpana Gardens on our way to see the active lava flows, I did not stop to take any pictures of this surreal community, as we were trying to get to the active flows by sunset and had to fight with our rickety rental bikes. But I found this 2012 article from Honolulu Magazine that has some pictures and profiles of people who live there, to convey some perspective of what the life there is like.  

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