Sunday, March 2, 2014

Hanging up the red suspenders: Retiring Hawaiian Lava Daily

Leigh makes a January 2017 quick visit to the molten lava!

But still a retired blog ...

Heading back out of the fumes - May 2013
 - Photo by Ron Boyle
              I started this blog in 2009 to share our local molten lava eruption while it was flowing down the south slopes of Hawaii Island. It had, of course, already been flowing down to the coast for many years, but around that time the surface lava became more accessible for those living on the Puna side of Hawaii Island. Plus, I went digital in 2007, allowing me to more easily share my passion for photography.
Serious ocean entry - July 2008
June 2013 inland near ocean

Since last fall, the lava slowly ceased entering the ocean,  so this ‘Daily’ has become rather quiet .  Even before that, I was offering fewer updates as the months slid by.  

I'm perched on the sea wall in 2013

It was never my intention to create anything remarkable with this blog.  I simply wanted to share what I was already doing – hiking to the lava flow and documenting it with video and still photography.

For the first time ever I just looked at the “page views” for this blog.  It’s at 690,696 as of today.  Wow – I had no idea!

Waikupanaha ocean entry 2009

Erupting lava that you can walk right up to and see moving with your own eyes; watching raw earth being formed before you so close that the heat from it is searing, the fumes are stinging, the newly cooling lava is hissing, snapping and popping - where molten rock entering the ocean explodes into fireworks of glowing fragments while simultaneously, and instantly, creating a black sand beach ... well THAT is a world wonder!
                           I just had to share it all somehow!

And so ...  I began this blog to allow others to witness, through my camera lenses and words, this amazing excretion of the earth’s magma core.
Inside a lava cave - Kalapana 2011

The coastal lava phase of the eruptions has ceased for now.  Although molten lava continues to erupt from the earth as surface flows here on the Big Island, as I will detail a bit further down, it was hard to hike to, not all that exciting, smoky & hot; I no longer was documenting it, other than the occasional posting I have made in recent months.
Feeling the heat taking this one-- Beautiful forms lava can make~
 This lack of accessible molten lava, combined with my desire to be back on the mainland with my family – 5 grown children and 5 granddaughters –  has lead to this:  Tomorrow I am leaving the big Island, after 16 exciting years of documenting its coastal lava flows. 

Pulama Pali eruption February 2012
It was with a lot of heartfelt desire and work that I produced this blog. Especially during those super active years I covered here: 2009 to 2012, and a bit of 2013. (I was going to try to put together a link-list of highlights from those years but found the task daunting :)

Ocean entry and back fill flow 2008
When documenting all of this activity, I almost always left home well before daylight and hiked into the surface flow action in time to record the spectacular scenes in the pre-dawn, and dawn, light; daylight detail with red-orange lava glow.
June 2013 - 4 miles southwest of Kalapana
Sometimes the hikes were short,  others were many miles and uphill and lasted a couple of days. (I carry a lot of weight on my back for those; like extra water, and food, along with my heavy camera gear. (Two and a half of those years I did this with a compound sprained right ankle). I napped beside glowing lava to keep warm on overnighters - I had no room for extra clothing.

When activity was really exciting, I would return to the lava flow front after only a few hours sleep – sometimes for days on end - and somehow still made the time to upload & process my latest photos and write the day's blog before heading back out the door to the lava; exhausting but also a pleasure.

Lava pouring out of the jungle April 29th, 2009

So I want to give out a really big Thank-You! to all of you who have come along for the Hawaiian Lava Daily ride! 
I appreciated those who emailed me, or posted here, with such kind and supportive comments about my stories, photos and videos. Each one meant a lot to me.
Cold lava with amazing color banding; very large roping

It was also a treat to meet many of you while you visited the island, or you locals and friends that came by my lava photo display booth to talk story.
My photo booth back in the good days

And a super-special mahalo to those of you who so generously contributed to my lava film; the 34-minute documentary chronicling the powerful 2010 lava flow that brought the demise of Gary Sleik’s home here in Kalapana Gardens, and two others. -- (By the way, if there is anyone who sent me a donation and somehow did not receive last year’s draft of the film, please email me and I will send you the latest draft.)
You have to see this one in the large view window! - Spot Gary's home in this scene
Speaking of that documentary, NBC Universal is currently developing a special presentation based on my movie. I do not know yet when it will be aired on their cable network. They were just here a few weeks ago interviewing both Gary and me. I shot some of the footage of Gary looking over his burned out homestead for them. AND, Gary has just bulldozed a new road into his otherwise lava-severed property!
He’s going to build out there again! 

The NBC producer, Lauren, took these two photos of us.
Leigh Hilbert & Gary Sleik January 27th, 2014
Gary's infamous 'lava viewing chair' remains forever embedded
(Featured a few times in my movie; before, during and after the lava claimed it)

So while Gary reclaims his Kalapana land, I reclaim the lands I was born and raised on - the Pacific Northwest coastlines.

Another reason to end Hawaiian Lava Daily is that all eruption activity is being well covered others: touring outfits, photographers and as always, by Hawaii Volcano Observatory (HVO) via the US Geological Survey (USGS). In recent years they have improved every aspect of their methods, equipment; coalescing it all within their well laid out website: Kilauea Volcano Updates
At the ocean entry Feb 2013 -
 Getting one last look before hiking out - Photo by Ken Carl

My last lava update:

The ocean entry lava a year ago
Photo by Vika Ostrovsky
March 2nd, 2014: As you likely already know, lava is currently erupting inside the contained crater floor vent of Halema`uma`u Kilauea caldera within the appropriately named Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  The other active eruption is within the Pu`u O`o crater at the park’s most easterly boundary, seven miles northwest of Kalapana, where lava broils within the swollen crater.
 Meanwhile, eruptive fissures along the east flanks of Pu`u O`o also host a surface flow of lava, named the ‘Kahauake’e 2 flow’, which is presently 4.8 miles east-northeast of the crater (see USGS updates link above). This flow is randomly, and slowly, advancing into remote forests only a couple of miles southeast from the community of Glenwood - slightly uphill to the north, about five miles west of the town of Pahoa, and a few miles south of Hawaiian Acres subdivision. 

Its advancement is very much affected by magma chamber inflation and deflation beneath Kilauea Volcano, and is flowing across relatively flat & unoccupied lands… But, the terrain there does lean down slope and is blocked on the south by the higher Kilauea’s east rift zone pu`u  cinder cone alignment.
As I have written many times before, it is nearly fruitless to predict what the volcano Fire Goddess Pele will do next. That said, I will offer this projection of where the flow might proceed to: (click on an image to see it larger)
Surface lava flow field: the brighter red on map below.
Pu`u O`o five miles away in the middle distance 

I could not locate a proper topography map online, which would have narrowed down my loose projections a lot better, so I have used the February 20th
 2014 USGS/HVO surface lava flow map and have added some sloppy green lines indicating the general area I think the lava could possibly flow in to if it somehow continues advancing; might take years to get there, if ever, … But if it did, it sure would make for some interesting times in the lower Puna district!

The other two eruption outcomes I could see as likely scenarios are a new, possibly dramatic, fissure eruption either below Pu`u O`o (it is plugged full of hot lava right now), or, a fissure eruption just down the Chain of Craters road a short ways below the massive 530-foot wide caldron of molten undulating rock, the Halema`uma`u crater, in an area where I have been seeing periodic earthquake clusters the past few years … But I really have no idea at all… Better to let the super geologists we are gifted to have on this island give us the heads-up:) ... Then there is always the eerily quiet Mauna Loa volcano ..... Hilo could look like this : )
My world of molten lava at moonset

Aloha Nui to you all,
At the lava flow front February 10th, 2013
The wind damn-near gave me a mohawk !
Photo by Ken Carl
Happy trails too!

~~ Leigh Hilbert
Leigh Hilbert Photography


  1. Wishing you all the best Leigh in your future travels! I have so enjoyed following your blog and pictures and I have one hanging in my house I glance at daily to remind me of the beautiful island! Take Care.

    1. Thanks Christine! That's cool you have one of my lava prints :)

  2. Leigh I happened upon your page a few years ago and have enjoyed every post. Thank you for sharing your amazing pictures and knowledge. How would I purchase your movie?

    1. Hi Jonathan,
      So you followed along the journey- "every post" - wow!

      As to getting a copy DVD of my documentary I am not (yet) making a commercial production. The only people who have received copies are those that had donated to the production costs early on, and a few copies to others while marketing for an executive producer....
      ... But, because you read every one (or enjoyed the ones you read ;) of my postings you win an award of a free copy! Just email me with your mailing address Jonathan (it's on the bottom of my last post above)

  3. Best of luck to you Leigh! Mahalo for all the years of your incredible photos. We'll miss you and hope you'll come back at least to visit one day when Pele returns to the lowlands.
    Aloha a hui hou! - your fellow lava junkies - Malia and Hank

    1. I'm glad I got to meet you at the OM that day Hank. Maybe Malia will be around next time.

      Good luck to you guys too-- It's a challenging gig you started, but I was impressed at your fortitude under the circumstances :)

  4. We've been fondly following your wonderful blog since you turned us on to it in person August 2010. Mostly due to your inspiration we got out on the big boat to view the ocean entry last year about a month before it abated. Fantastic! Thanks for everything and may good times be with you and yours.

  5. Hey Stash-- thanks for the note here!
    You cut it close on seeing the lava from the ocean side but it worked out fine it seems (unless it was a bumpy ocean swell day :)

    Good wishes to you guys too!

  6. Thank you so much for all the time and care you put into this blog! Your photography in particular has been an inspiration to me. I wish you all the best in the next stage of your journey.

    You might consider renting your house out on AirBNB.

    1. I appreciate your good wishes Rachel and I'm glad you found some inspiration viewing my photos. As for renting, I had thought about that but decided it was too much of a hassle and risk. I felt it was better to just sell it while it was in its brand new condition.
      ~~ Happy Trails,

  7. Exciting that you are moving to the mainland, but I'll miss your lava updates. I'm glad I had the opportunity to do a pre-dawn hike with you out to the beautiful ocean entry!

    1. Yeah that was a decent ocean entry we hiked to Bradley.

  8. This is the 3rd blog in the last couple of days that I just came across...that is discontinuing! I wish you all the best, and warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. Aloha.

    1. Yeah Linda-- The first sign of big changes ahead is when the cool blogs start dropping off the screens :)
      ... Time to get back to the land and be self-sufficient maybe :)
      ... Like the Gulf Islands eh ;)

  9. Leigh, I was a fan of your blog, even though I never made it to the Big Island. When Kilauea pops off again, I hope you'll be back. I'll be the first in line to hike with you.

    1. Okay Phil-- it's a deal- I'll go hiking with you next time :)

  10. Thank you very much for sharing all your posts and thoughts about lava daily for us. I am very grateful to have found you on the web, and wish you all the best in your future endeavours! Aloha, Leigh! :)
    Lucia Malla

    1. That's sweet of you to say Lucia!
      - All the best to you too!!

  11. Mahalo leigh. This blog has been a beautiful experience for me since my wife and I visited the Big Island in 2008. I have never felt such a wonderful connection to the world as i did visiting Kilauea. This blog helped me co tinue that adventure. Enjoy your "retirement!"

  12. 2008 was an active year with the ocean entry lava!
    In the years after your visitI am happy you guys could continue to at least vicariously enjoy the lava action through the blog.

  13. Hi Leigh, I really enjoyed the blog. Similar to the poster above, it allowed me to have a little bit of the big island back in the UK. Many thanks for sharing your adventures with us!