Late last year I received an invitation to go to Hawaii — again. As some of you know, I was fortunate to be able to go to Hawaii a few years ago (thanks to the generosity of friends and frequent flyer miles). However, during that first visit to Hawaii I was not able to go to the Big Island. The item on top of my bucket list has been to see an active volcano. So when this new invitation was to go to the Big Island and stay for free with friends – I decided to do it. To help pay for the trip I dove into a closet that I have not looked in for 17 years, which was full of artifacts, old photos, and other items. I sold some of the things from my blog and now have several notebooks with this collection in the museum’s gift shop Thanks to Sharon Smith for the invite and the good time, and to Steve and Dorothy Moon for their hospitality, generosity, and amazing excursions.

During the time we were on the Big Island, there was a lot of volcanic activity. Lava is currently flowing into the ocean on the southeast side of the island. A picture of the steam cloud is below.

Early in our visit we decided to drive to the top of the world — Mauna Kea. If you count the total height of the mountain from the bottom of the ocean floor, this volcano is over 33,000 feet – taller than Mount Everest. The photo below shows the first view of Mauna Kea after we drove above the almost permanent cloud layer (which that day was at 6,500 feet). The next photo is the sister volcano – Mauna Loa.

The diagram below features Mauna Loa, which is larger In volume but smaller in height. Both mountains are the top two tallest in the world.

Here are a couple of photos I took from the top of Mauna Kea.

Because of successive lava flows, sometimes molten pathways become covered and form lava tubes, or pukas. Sharon and I went and checked one out in the Volcanoes National Park.

Basaltic rock is everywhere on the Big Island – geology in your face to be sure! Below is a picture of rough basalt that is only a couple of hundred years old. The next photo below shows a finger of lava from Mauna Loa that flowed around one hundred years ago.

Since I live in Grand Marais, I am used to Lake Superior sand. In my research before the trip, I found out that there is a green sand beach on the Big Island – one of only four in the world. We had to walk in one-way three miles or so, but it was worth it. The green comes from the olivine crystals that were embedded in the basalt, but then eroded out. The beach is surrounded by half a lava crater.

There are also black sand beaches that consist of sand-grain size pieces of basalt.

The southernmost point on the Big Island is the southernmost point in the U.S. The photo below shows an area near the southern tip.

The other highlight of the trip was seeing active lava at a side vent of Kilauea. Here are photos I took from the viewing platform of the same side crater during the day, and one at night. Two weeks after we were standing at this spot, the side of the crater caved in.

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