After missing my guide on Friday night I headed back to the cabin in Volcano Village. My cell phone rang. It was an unfamiliar number, but I answered it anyway. It was Shane the boat captain of LavaKai and the owner of Lava Ocean Tours, Inc, the company for which my “missing” tour guide worked. Shane apologized and explained what had happened. Shane had been out on the boat and unable to call when the company’s reservationist tried to find out why my guide was a no-show. He offered to make arrangements for another hike but of course I had already done so. He invited me to take a boat tour, compliments of him. I told him I was already signed up. All the better he said. And it would be at no charge. I thanked him for his call and looked forward to meeting him on Sunday morning. He assured me if I didn’t eat much Saturday night, stayed away from coffee in the morning and sat in the back of the boat I wouldn’t get sick. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Been there and done that. I get sea-sick in elevators.
On Saturday, after I managed to find my way out of Ed’s community it took an hour to get back to Volcano Village. It was around 10 pm. I was tired. My feet hurt. I knew my legs would be sore from walking on the uneven lava surface. A hot shower helped, but the unheated bathroom left me quickly climbing back into my sweatshirt and socks. Before turning in I downloaded the photos and recharged the camera and phone batteries. The alarm was set for 2:15 am. Sleep didn’t come easily despite my weariness. Every half hour I found the clock staring at me. I gave up at 2 am, gathered my gear and headed out into the mist and drizzle.
Early on Saturday I donned those pressure point wrist bands that supposedly prevent seasickness. After I arrived at the launch site I popped one Dramamine. If I took two I would surely fall asleep. In my backpack was plenty of water, and a bandana to wipe the puke out of my nose and off my face. I checked to be sure had the wintermint gum to rid the bitter tasting bile from my mouth. I am a puking pro. The dread of sea sickness doesn’t stop me from going to sea, but by sitting in the car and waiting I psyched myself into a little queasy. I got out and walked around the empty parking lot.
It was 65 degrees and a light mist fell as Shane went over the realities of the boat ride. “Not your dinner cruise. It will be rough and you will get wet. If you have any back problems, heart problems, respiratory issues, this is not your trip. Be honest with yourself. Pre-existing conditions will not be covered by my insurance. Remember you are on vacation. You don’t want to end up in the hospital. If you want the smoothest ride, move to the back of the boat. Does everyone speak English?” We nodded. “Good. Then I will assume everyone just understood what I said.” If anyone had second thoughts nobody spoke up. We stood silently in the rain under the eerie yellow glow of lamppole #4.
We boarded the LavaKai by climbing a ten foot ladder while it sat on a trailer in the parking lot. I put on another layer under my rain gear and followed a couple of professors for the University of Wisconsin to the stern. The boat was then taken to the launch and turned loose in the harbor. Shane turned the craft on a dime and we headed out to sea. I glued my eyes to the dark ridge that hung on the western horizon. The boat cut quickly through the three foot sea swells flinging a sometimes heavy spray into the boat. Periodically a dim pin point of light emerged from the shore line and disappeared. Not too many people lived along this remote coast.
High above the lava plain sits the source of all the current flows Puu Oo. The cinder cone’s glow hovered in a void of black. January marked the 30th anniversary of Kilauea’s ongoing eruption from Puu Oo. Due to its remoteness inside the Volcanoes National Park most visitors never see it. Until now, I had never seen it. Those who hike the trail to the cinder cone are warned not to come closer than a mile. At the forest edge near Puu Oo all the vegetation is dead from toxic fumes.
On the fast moving LavaKai, we soon approached the red glows from the ocean entries. The captain kept the boat moving by maneuvering the craft just outside the shore break. The water is over a couple hundred feet deep here so waves break within a few feet of the fresh lava. The crashing roar of waves on the advancing lava and stirred winds from its rapid cool wrapped the boat in a surreal environment. The boat’s engine’s growled in the churning surf fighting the draw of the sea to the rocks. Noxious sulfur swirled around us and invaded my lungs.
The crew tossed a bucket into the water and drew up the sea water so we could feel its temperature. I only dipped a finger in it as I didn’t want the sticky salt all over my hands as I operated my cameras. It felt Jacuzzi hot.
The brightness of the lava ripped the night apart. Frustrated by the cameras’ attempt to read the lava’s light, the bright glow reflected in the steam clouds and the stark darkness I had trouble setting a good exposure. The sea’s motion made shots blurry. But I kept experimenting and wondered how everyone else managed to just shoot the scene. As day broke I got cleaner shots.
I stopped myself to just look. To simply sit on the deck and view the awesome struggle of endless creation and destruction. Globs of molten lava spurted forth from behind a curtain of pink clouds that shrouded where it emerged from deep inside the earth. Waves crashed ashore, ripping the red flow from the shelf and sweeping it unto the sea. Burning rocks floated near the boat. In the raging surf the lava dramatically cooled, hissing in painful protest. Vapors swept off the coast and danced across the black waters where reflected light patterns shattered beneath the lava’s demonic glare. Neither sea nor volcano ceased in its efforts to dominate the other.
I finally had seen lava flowing. New earth created and destroyed at the same time. Acres upon acres of new land have been created by Kilauea in the last thirty years, yet everyday the sea steals acres of the new creation. The captain made one last pass at the lava before turning toward dawn and then back to Hale Isaac Beach.
I never even thought about feeling sick.