Volcano Life

Note: I assume anyone reading this post is aware of Kilauea’s current activity.

pink smoke

I’m pretty sure I was awakened seven times last night due to the swaying and jostling of my house; the USGS earthquake record supports this with the number of quakes nearby in that timeframe. That said, perhaps I was dreaming or imagining the movement: since the 6.9 quake the other day I’ve felt shaking and wobbling that does not officially appear on the list, and I’m checking it a lot (https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/map/, zoom to Hawaii). Phantom earthquakes? Why my body feels the need to imagine more drama is beyond me.

jesse tunison

I love Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park; I live just a few miles from its entrance. I have photographs of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater by local artist Jesse Tunison and glowing lava by G. Brad Lewis on my bedroom walls. I ‘know’ about lava and eruptions. Or rather, I thought I knew. I’ve been surprised a lot lately.

g brad lewis

My house, built twenty feet off the ground, has all the required earthquake joists and connectors – in theory it is better to sway than to snap – but I surmise it also makes the house more responsive to the moving rock beneath it. But I don’t really know. I had to agree to these specifications when building; it’s not like I seriously imagined that there would come a 24-hour time period with over 200 earthquakes in the vicinity.

At over 3000 feet, I expect that my four acres are not in danger of opening fissures, as is the case downslope, but the fact of the matter is that there is a ginormous river of magma down below me. In 2014 I was stunned when lava inched towards the town of Pahoa. The current inundation of residential areas south and east of Pahoa is also a shock, although locals know the area is officially in the number one spot of Lava Hazard Zone reckoning (one holds the most danger; nine the least; but the 2006 6.7 earthquake, sans lava, did a lot of damage in Zone Nine). I barely took notice of the designation when searching for property; when Madame Pele is not active, it is easy to forget what lies beneath (see photo of my driveway above). My current property is in Zone Three (although it abuts a Zone One); as the crow flies I’m some twenty miles upslope from the photos you are seeing in the news of the ongoing devastation. I do smell what I assume to be volcanic gas, but it’s not at the deadly levels of Leilani Estates.

A 1955 event near the current activity lasted months and covered thousands of acres, including the town of Kapoho. Wish us all luck.

Post note: After experiencing the wettest winter since I’ve lived in this area, and just before all the Civil Defense alerts started flying, I undertook to clean every inch of my house, top to bottom. I’m still cleaning, even though the fact remains that a particularly situated earthquake could level the entire structure. I’ve just stopped long enough to put down my thoughts about what’s happening in my neck of the woods. Now back to moving furniture and dusting. Hey, I haven’t felt a quake in the last half hour – woo hoo!

To see more of Jesse’s work: https://toxikccolour.com/volcanic-landscapes

G. Brad Lewis: https://www.volcanoman.com/#/page/home/

The photo of pink smoke is from the internet, source unknown.

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