EACH island has its extinct craters from which extend the limited ranges of mountains and plains which make the island surface. These large craters are from a few hundred to over thirteen thousand feet in altitude. They seem to have had mighty explosions after they had been built into mountains, and one side of the crater has usually been blown out or has slid down into the ocean, leaving very high, steep side walls around irregularly shaped valleys opening toward the sea.
In these craters and between them and the sea are many small craters which mark the most recent eruptions on the various islands. There are no legends of the origin of any of these large craters, whether extinct or active. There are very interesting stories connected with many of them, and there are legends of the origin of some of the small extinct craters which lie at the bases of the mountain ranges. These usually are ascribed to the fire-goddess Pele, who came to the Hawaiian group ages after the
islands were built, and who only succeeded in starting eruptions of no great importance until she found her present home in the volcano Kilauea. These small extinct craters marked the progress of Pele's journey through the islands.
The large mountains of all the islands, except Hawaii, have no hot springs and no outlets for steam or hot air which would indicate any remnant of living fire still abiding in them. Nor are there any very noticeable earthquake shocks in these other islands, even at the time when the island Hawaii is pouring floods of lava down its mountain sides and is shaking its inhabitants with great force.
Open volcanic activity is confined to the mountains of Hawaii. The mountains of Maui, especially Hale-a-ka-la, are called active because of historic eruptions and signs of hidden fire.
The extinct craters are very interesting. They have their broken-down side wall, through which the last great effort of volcanic life was poured out. They also have crater cones and sometimes lava flows of small extent on the floor left by the great eruption. These were the picturesque last throbs of life as a volcano died. Occasional spasmodic efforts were made in both earthquake and lava flow until the fire cooled in the submarine chambers.
From the summits of all these mountains,
peculiarly fine cloud views can be enjoyed. There is not only the gathering of cloud masses rolling beneath the lover of the sublime,--this can be seen on all the large mountains of the world,--but here in the Hawaiian Islands the march of cloud armies sweeping over an ocean and spreading in ceaseless motion for miles over the lowlands receives an added element of majesty and awe when tossing, whirling cloud mountains roll into the extinct craters and slowly fill the bowl of the gods from rim to rim as the morning sun delicately touches the crater edges above the clouds with all the colors of the dawn.
Here and there in the decaying volcanic ash and disintegrating lava can sometimes be found beautiful, small, star-rayed zeolite, or the pale green olivine, or coarse black augite crystals. These are of no value, save as they show some of the forms taken by cooling lava, and are of interest chiefly to the scientist.
On the island Hawaii are three great mountains from 8,200 to 13,600 feet above the ocean, which smashes its mighty tides and surf waves against the coast below. One of these, Mauna Kea (White Mountain), is an extinct volcano with a lake of water in its crater. Hualalai is dormant, although from it there was a great eruption a little over a hundred years ago, and
even now possibilities of activity are talked about by those who cultivate sugar-cane and coffee on its lower slopes. Mauna Loa (Great or long mountain) has a most interesting active crater on its summit, Mokuaweoweo (Blood-red island), from which enormous rivers of lava are hurled down to the waiting ocean many miles below.
What is said to be the most active crater in the world, Kilauea, lies on an eastern spur of Mauna Loa at an elevation of 4,000 feet above the sea. This crater is a great caldron or pit crater, and has been known among the Hawaiians for centuries as Ka-Lua Pele (The Pit of Pele). Below Kilauea are a number of craters of similar character, great sunken holes or pits in a country of almost even surface.
Kilauea is a surprise to the tourist. Ki-lau-ea means "the rising up or living leaf of the ti-plant." Ea means "to rise up" and also "to live." Ki-lau means "ti-leaf." A gradual ascent by rail and motor-car for about thirty miles brings the visitor to a flat region miles in extent and sparsely covered with giant ferns and shrubs and gray-leaved trees with fringed red balls of flowers. Here and there small clouds of steam come from crevices around a hotel where the traveller finds his resting-place.
In front of this hotel, and not seen until the
[1. Tree fern--Cibotium Menziesii.]
motor-car stops, is the crater whose edges are almost level with the surrounding plain. It is a precipice-walled bowl, three miles across, with a multitude of steam jets breaking through its vast floor and a great cloud of smoke rising from a pit in a black border-land of frozen lava. Kilauea looks like a congealed lake whose glossy black hard waves had hardened while rolling and struggling with each other under some fierce tempest. It is, however, a cone ascending gradually to the fire-pit from these precipitous edges of the bowl.
Under the smoke cloud of the pit lies the always active lake of fire, Ka-Lua Pele (The Pit of Pele), the traditional home of the goddess Pele, now called Halemaumau (House fixed or continuing).
From this volcano Kilauea, and the crater Mokuaweoweo, which lies like an island in the top of Mauna Loa, nearly 10,000 feet higher, come enormous and sometimes destructive lava flows. They are called rivers of lava, but a lava river, unlike a stream of water, flows underneath a continually cooling and hardening crumpled surface, pushing its way from under and at last leaving long tunnels. Sometimes new lava melts through the walls of these caves and pours along the path left ages before, frequently finding an outlet even under the waves of the sea. The
natives say, "Pele has gone to the sea by the ala huna [the hidden path]."
There are two kinds of lava which these rivers carry down. One in cooling becomes very smooth and hard. Its surface shines like black satin. Professor C. H. Hitchcock, the eminent geologist, says: "The name pa-hoe-hoe signifies having the aspect of satin or having a shining smooth surface. It is quite hummocky and shows a wrinkled ropy structure." The glossy part is real volcanic glass shining on the surface because the silica which is used in making glass rises to the top of the cooling lava. It is lighter than the other ingredients. This pa-hoe-hoe lava is abundant in the lava fields around Mexico City.
The name a-a, which signifies "torn up by roots," is the name given to another kind of lava. An a-a flow is lava changed into bristling, ragged rocks, with innumerable fine sharp edges cutting like fragments of broken glass. It appears very much like slag from iron furnaces, only infinitely worse to handle.
These two Hawaiian names are now the accepted scientific names for these classes of lava the world over.
In 1911 the first successful attempt to secure the temperature of the boiling lava in the lake of fire was made scientifically. Professor F. G. Perret came from his observatory by Vesuvius
and Professor E. G. Shepherd from the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution at Washington, to study Kilauea, following the beginning of such observations already established by Professor Jaggar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
They stretched a wire cable 1,500 feet long from wall to wall over the lake of fire. They ran wires through pulleys along this cable and dropped the best instruments they had with them straight down. Some of these were broken before registration could be secured. The last thermometer registered 1850° Fahrenheit, remaining steadily at that point until the thermometer was withdrawn. Later it was again lowered, but, according to Professor Shepherd, "Pele arose in her wrath, grasped the thermometer, flung hot lava on the supporting wires, thereby weakening them, and then with a final jerk broke the thermometer from its supports and swallowed it. Pele seems to like ironware for diet."
The record of from 1800° to 2000° Fahrenheit seems to be the normal heat of the lake of fire, sometimes, of course, rising much higher under special conditions. The scientific observers when speaking of lava heat usually say it is 1850° Fahrenheit.