We finished our day in Puna by continuing our drive along the coast road, highway 137, to the lava flow that buried the coast road in Volcano, N.P.; you might remember from my earlier post that a lava flow in 1986 buried 10 miles of the coast road.
In 1990, another lava flow followed the path of the 1986 flow and destroyed Kalapana, the village on the east end that had survived the 1986 flow, although a few of the houses survived. This part of the island is outside the National Park and is still in private ownership, although the landowners now own vacant lots covered by 50 feet of hardened igneous rock, rather than the farms, houses and vacation homes they used to have.
Amazingly, a number of people have rebuilt their homes on top of the hardened lava!
The State of Hawaii and the landowners have hired security guards to keep the public isolated to the road right-of-way, so we parked at the security entrance and then walked in to the viewing area.
The most recent lava flow, which we climbed up on, was in 2011, although it only reached and destroyed one house. Unbelievably, these people continue to live and rebuild here!
I wouldn’t feel comfortable living in a home where I was greeted with a view like this every morning, knowing another wall of magma could descend at any minute.
At the viewing point, we talked with one of the security guards and he told us that he lives in one of these houses. He was from Alabama and is semi-retired. He told us that when he was trying to decide where he wanted to retire, he narrowed it down to the Florida Keys and Hawaii, ultimately deciding on Hawaii. His analysis: you never know if or when another lava flow will come, but you do know there will be time to get out of its way; but in the Keys, you always know that a hurricane will eventually come, but there’s nothing you can do about it.
Let’s hope he’s wrong about the hurricane part.