The Hraunfossar Falls in Iceland stretch for a kilometer — where glacier melt penetrates through layers of lava and flows into the Hvita River. I was captivated by the clarity of the flowing water against the black lava and the vibrant blue color of the glacial water when it pooled in the river.
Flowing Hot Lava
For the first time in my long life, I had the chance to view hot flowing lava, when I flew over Mauna Loa during the 2022 eruption. Mauna Loa, on the big island of Hawaii, is the largest active volcano in the world, and it had not erupted for 38 years prior to December 2022. Upon hearing that this eruption and our vacation would overlap, I was first worried that our non-refundable trip was doomed. After checking with a friend who lives on Hawaii Island, we kept our original plans and arrived on December 3. Fortunately, we enjoyed clear skies over the west coast Kona region, and some unique sightings of the lava flow. I even got my friend Dennis, who lives on Hawaii, out on his first helicopter adventure.
Newest Land on the Planet
Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano on Earth, is erupting now on the Big Island of Hawaii. As molten lava spews into the air and flows down the long mountain slopes, the newest land on the planet is forming.
In the wee hours of Monday December 5, I made these photographs from the safe distance of 2 miles. You can appreciate the ferocity of the fire and hot lava.
Here is some background information on Mauna Loa and the meaning of its name from the U. S. Geological Survey. (This quote was written before the current eruption of 2022.)
“The Hawaiian name “Mauna Loa” means “Long Mountain.” This name is apt, for the subaerial part of Mauna Loa extends for about 120 km (74 mi) from the southern tip of the island to the summit caldera and then east-northeast to the coastline near Hilo.
Mauna Loa is among Earth’s most active volcanoes, having erupted 33 times since its first well-documented historical eruption in 1843. It has produced large, voluminous flows of basalt that have reached the ocean eight times since 1868. It last erupted in 1984, when a lava flow came within 7.2 km (4.5 mi) of Hilo, the largest population center on the island. “
Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland
After our glacier hike, we stopped at a little restaurant for some lamb soup, and were surprised to discover this beautiful coast line just a short walk from the restaurant.
This Western region of Iceland, just north of Reykjavik is one of my favorite regions in Iceland. When I return to Iceland someday for a few days of exploration by car, I will probably head up this way. In addition to the dormant volcano Snaefellsjokull and its glacier, one can also enjoy these sea cliffs, miles of sheep farms, lava fields and scenic mountains (more photos of the mountains to come).
Our ship was docked in Grundarfjordur, and next we would return to the ship, passing the most photographed mountain in Iceland, Kirkjufell. One of my goals of the Iceland trip was to capture my own photo of Kirkjufell, but the only opportunity I had was through the bus window. That would be one of many reasons to go back someday.
Volcanic Heimaey Island
The story of Heimaey Island in the south of Iceland makes geology class feel like a modern day adventure movie. As our ship sailed toward the narrow opening to its fishing boat harbor, a first look at the land bore witness to the 1973 volcanic eruption that nearly closed the harbor entrance. I’ve never before seen hardened lava looking like wet mud that just dripped and dried quite recently. Later, we learned that men battled the lava flow threatening the harbor with fire hoses in a successful and historically unique effort to cool the lava and shorten the length of its flow, preserving the harbor entrance and the way of life for the fishermen.
The fog that would settle in for the day and cancel our flight-seeing tour was descending on us as well. Nevertheless, this view from our cabin this morning was quite beautiful. As a backup plan, I walked on my own into the village.
The volcano that forced the 2am evacuation of all the island residents in January of 1973 erupted for six months. All residents were safely evacuated to the mainland on fishing boats that happened to be in the harbor due to a recent storm. The people had wait all that time before they could return and find out the status of their homes.
A paragon of resilience, the residents returned to Heimaey to rebuild and resume their quiet, communal lives. I strolled up the street past new homes to see the volcano, and to visit the Museum of Remembrance, where recorded voices of residents describe personal stories of what happened as they realized the volcano was erupting and gathered their families to flee toward the harbor.
Alau Island, Maui
Alau Island off the coast of Maui reminds me of the small rocky islands in the Great Barrier Reef. As creatures of the 21st century, we can’t help but rejoice to find a piece of land undeveloped and basking in its natural glory. How many places on the planet can we find like this?
Just before sunset, Alau Island was shrouded with a pastel pink and blue blanket of color. I set my Nikon D800 for a long exposure to smooth the waves, the bright surf reflected some of the pink tones as well. It was not long before this scene slipped into darkness, and the full moon rose to give the scene a completely different feeling. See Alau Island with a darkening sky and full moon rising in this earlier blog post.
Seven Sacred Pools
At the far end of Maui’s Road to Hana, a series of waterfalls splash into terraces on a path to the Pacific. It wasn’t easy to get there through record rainfall, floods and numerous mudslides onto the road. But you can see the Sun God smiled on us late that afternoon, and the scene was brilliant, even though it was backlit. My Singh Ray graduated ND filter enhanced the final image.
We have arrived at the lowest point of the Haleakala National Park, after watching the sunrise at the 10,00 foot summit a few days earlier. (See my Blessed Sunrise post.)
Scenes that echo
As a landscape photographer, I am drawn to waterscapes everywhere I travel — from New Zealand to Hawaii and many other scenic locations. I find myself watching the surf, the rocks, the sunsets, the weather and the natural vegetation around the world.
When I encountered this scene in Maui recently, I was intrigued by the island — the way the surf had eroded it, the way the surf continued to interact with it and the vegetation that grew on it.
The lava island in Maui reminded me strongly of a rocky island that caught my eye in New Zealand in 2014. The NZ island was also constantly buffeted by the surf within a bay, and supported an interesting crop of vegetation. The two islands actually look quite different, but my fascination with them made a strong echo in my mind.
Two Suns in Maui
As the fiery orange sun was moments away from dipping into the Pacific, just below the distant rain clouds, sunbeams also appeared high in the sky. It almost seemed as if the afternoon sun was peaking through that opening in the clouds! Sure enough, blue sky, golden light and a brightening of the ocean’s surface right below created a unique illusion.
Slow motion surf
There is something soothing about watching water break on the rocks. Watching the smooth and repetitive motion is mesmerizing like watching fire burning logs in a fireplace. While a fire is hot and orange, and the surf is cool and blue — both natural scenes promote relaxation. I wonder why that is.