Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Volcano

Ah, here is where I am honoring the fiery lady who was not mentioned in the P post. Her name is Madam Pele and she is the volcano goddess of Hawaii. At least she’s not giving me the "stink eye” anymore – stink eye is the local term for a dirty look.

Original source from Wikipedia Commons: a lava vent from the Volcanoes National Park.
Photo by the USGS , cropped, then text added.
Of course Hawaii has a volcano goddess! Doesn’t every country have a volcano goddess? No? Well, why not? Oh, you don’t have volcanoes where you live? I see..

The volcano is a major force of nature in Hawaii, not just a cliché symbol of Hawaii. Having said that, I haven’t seen any vintage Hawaii tourist posters of big volcanoes, but maybe they’re around. And there are no Hawaiian tales or reference that I’ve heard about of virgins being sacrificed to the volcano. It’s Hollywood’s poetic license.
Kitschy Hawaii volcano ashtray souvenir. 
Hawaii’s volcanoes are shield volcanoes – they have a gentle slope, not a sharply angled cone. These volcanoes under the ocean spurted up lava that developed into mountains that eventually reached the ocean’s surface, kept growing, and became islands. The islands in the northwest of the Hawaiian island chain are older and more eroded by time.. those volcanoes have become craters or hills, those older islands have more coral reefs, white sand beaches, and less or no black sand beaches. The Big Island of Hawaii hosts two active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, and the landscape looks rocky and black in many places.

Maui, where I live, is a younger island. The last volcanic eruption occurred around 1790, but theoretically Haleakala, the name of the mountain and volcano, could erupt again.

Lava is a real threat in certain places on the Big Island. However, it's rare to hear of anyone dying in a lava flow or volcanic eruption. The lava tends to move very slowly. Even when it's "explosive," that's in areas far away from people. However, I did visit the beautiful black sand beach of Kalapana on a school trip, and years later, it was overrun with lava. 

The Hawaiian goddess Pele is the subject of many superstitions and legends, and she is especially regarded on the Big Island. Even if Pele’s existence contradicts one’s religious beliefs, locals still have respect for Pele. There are too many tales to retell, but some beliefs around lava and Madam Pele include:

Lava rock - can be reddish or gray. It's not always black. 

1. Don’t take lava home. Leave lava rocks in Hawaii. It’s considered bad luck to take Pele’s rocks. Every year, thousands of pounds of lava rock are mailed back to the Big Island from tourists who experienced “bad luck” from taking lava home.

2. If you see a solitary woman hitchhiker on the Big Island, give her a ride. It could be Madam Pele in disguise.

3. If you are visiting the volcano, leave Pele an offering. Common gifts include leis and food. I’ve also heard she likes Jack Daniels and other hard liquor.

Updated 4/26/13. I'm including some lava or volcano related posts by Big Island bloggers: 

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  1. Huh. What kind of bad luck do lava-thieves suffer?

  2. Aloha John, all sorts of bad things... their homes burn down or everything is stolen, weird bad accidents, hospital stuff, businesses go bust. It's partly myth and partly real stories. I'm sure some incidents have been exaggerated over time, but... still yet, why do people send so many boxes of rocks back to the Big Island?

  3. Think about it, you live on a volcano. That seems a little scary to me. I guess it's been quiet for 223 years so you should be alright. Hopefully, it doesn't erupt again for a long time. Our greatest risk for disaster here is wildfire because it's been so dry. Also, I wouldn't take lava rocks home, the next thing I'd know a huge Verreaux's Owl would land on my house. I don't need that trouble, although we don't have cats.

  4. Ahh, another similarity to Ecuador. Many volcanoes here and several are still active. We also get a lot of earthquakes. Many in Cuenca were woken this morning around 6:50 by one in Guayaquil. (I slept through it.)

    DB McNicol, author
    April A-Z Participant


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