By Jo Ward
I was lucky enough to go on the recent Geological Society of America’s Hawaiian volcanoes field trip with a fabulous bunch of students from Australia, New Zealand and the United States. It was an amazing geological experience and a fantastic opportunity to meet people from around the world. For those of you who are not familiar with Hawaii, the culture is unique and exhibits a lovely blend of Polynesian traditions and if you think you can’t take a good photo, it is the place for you! I challenge anyone to take a bad photo of the Hawaiian landscape, it won’t happen.
There is an uncanny fondness for Chihuahuas across the island state and a reverence when referring to Pele, the goddess of volcanoes and the creator of the islands. The mythology surrounding her describes her as a fair but fiery lady who is not to be trifled with. She is so highly respected that during volcanic activity, locals in Kona visit the henna parlors to have images of her and the volcano imprinted on their bodies. The locals are conscientious in their attempt to not lose their cultural roots and are happy to chat about almost anything, for a place that is so regularly devastated by natural hazards the spirit and generosity of the people was absolutely phenomenal to experience.
The trip was organized by Gary Lewis of the GSA and co-run by the lovely Amy Magoo, the whole trip was well planned and expertly executed. I’m an ore-focused geologist and had a limited knowledge of volcanology but that did not inhibit the experience or my understanding on this tour. Like many geo’s it is not until you go out into the field that you gain a deeper understanding of how all the features for a deposit/ landscape fit together.
The trip delivered awesome activities like hiking some truly incredibly impressive lava fields and volcanoes, coastal treks, whale watching and an amazing ‘doors off’ chopper ride over the currently active Kilauea volcano summit with an adept Belgian pilot named York who provided an excellent playlist. I can honestly say the combination of Jonny Cash’s Ring of Fire while flying over ropey Pohoehoe flows decimating a pine forest and feeling the heat and smoke off the ground was a once in a lifetime experience, and what can I say I love volcanic gasses in the morning.
We also ventured to an ocean worn ancient lava cove which holds one of the world’s only green beach, or for the discerning geologist a beach with sand consisting entirely of olivine. The water was unlike any colour I’ve seen and there was something almost trippy and definitely enjoyable about lying in green sand.
The sunsets are spectacular, the cocktails were creative and tasty (I suggest trying a ‘Lava-flow’) and the geology was unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. I’ve snorkeled with a 3-legged turtle, learned many things and seen the ‘glow’ of a volcanic crater at night. I had an absolute ball and cannot more highly recommend having a geo-venture in Hawaii.