Posts Tagged ‘lava’

Tall Tales of Hawaii

June 1, 2018

The islands of Hawaii are the very tippy-tops of huge volcanoes that erupted from the ocean floor a long, long time ago. So while each one appears to be a small island, they are in fact all very high volcanic mountains surrounded by water that is a couple of miles deep.

How this happened is a funny story.

Several geologic ages ago, ole mother earth began spewing out a gargantuan pile of molten lava through a hot spot in the Pacific ocean floor. Solidifying as it piled upward during eons of  time, the great magma pile finally popped up above sea level and became the island of Kauai.

Over vast periods of time, one pile after another eventually rose above sea level to become a new Hawaiian island.    The molten  lava flows were being extruded from earth’s inner parts because of very high heat way down underground. This extreme hotness is always being generated somewhere down there, by mega-friction between between our planet’s internal moving parts. Every now and then the resultant outward pressure overwhelms all the surrounding crud. Molten rock then bursts through and gets spewed out through whatever weak spot or fissure it can find.

Volcanoes, we call them. This process is how the eight islands of Hawaii were formed.

If you look at a map of the Hawaiian archipelago, you’ll see that the islands are all strung out in a geographical chain. This is because, as each volcanic mass was slowly mounting upwards, the bottom of the ocean was, at the same time, taking its own sweet time sliding along sideways. Consequently, each volcanic tower became an island in a different location.

Although we are not generally aware of it, our earth’s outer layer is divided into several giant mega-slabs. These vast tectonic “plates” (as scientists call them) are always shifting. Only seismologists and geologists can  track these planetary developments; technicians have hyper-sensitive seismologic equipment that detects the changes and documents them.

So that’s how we know about all this stuff. We have people somewhere all the time keeping tabs on the incremental, though massive, shifting of our planetary home.

Way, way down deep beneath Pacific waters, a very gradual but steady long-term northwesterly movement of the vast Pacific “plate”  determined in what geographical arrangement the Hawaiian islands got placed. A  generally southeast-toward-northwest sliding, over time, thus established a southeast-to-northwest configuration of the Hawaiian islands chain.

Each island pile is an extrusion of earth’s internal processes. These planetary developments are actually happening beneath our civilization all the time, although we are rarely aware of them. Every now and then ole mother earth makes her inner workings known by spurting out a fresh load of melted stuff.

LavaFlow

Volcanoes, we call them.

The latest  is happening now on the biggest, newest Hawaiian island, which shares its name with the whole group—Hawaii, the “big island.” You may have heard about this new volcano; it’s called Kilauea. Video reports of its activity have lately been all over the web and other media.

At Kilauea

I’ve been to Kilauea, and seen the bright molten lava as it was sloshing down its deep crater hole in the ground. But that visit was a few years ago.

This morning, I woke up in a breezy dwelling on the absolute other end of these strung-out islands.

Here on Kauai, I spend part of my morning reading a very good book about this island, Edward Joesting’s Kauai: The Separate KIngdom.

  https://www.amazon.com/Kauai-Separate-Edward-Joesting-III/dp/0824811623/

This scholastic work has opened my eyes to some fascinating history of this oldest Hawaiian outcropping.

The ancient storytellers here seem to have had a sense that their beautiful islands share a common origin.

Long before we had sophisticated seismology equipment to track planetary changes, we humans had ancient storytellers, people like Moses, Josephus, Homer, Confucius, Herodotus, and many others.

Today I’m reading about some ancient storytellers of Hawaii. In his book, Mr. Joesting writes of native legends that go way back in Hawaiian time.

  It seems to me that some of the ancient storytellers must have felt a tribal urge to somehow, through tall tales, bring their islands back together as one.

This is Hercules and Paul Bunyan-type tall tales, Hawaiian version.   

Edward cites the legend of the demigod named “Maui”— not the island of Maui, but the mythical deity whose name that island bears. As a sort of early comic-book hero, Maui did some amazing feats.

Edward Joesting provides this mythical account, on page 7 of his book:

“The demigod Maui, among his various escapades, chose to draw all the islands together into one land mass. To do this he had to catch a giant fish called Luehu, but the fish avoided all of Maui’s efforts.”

(Long story short, after Maui had managed to snap the big fish on a line . . .)

“Luehu pulled Maui and his canoe around the Hawaiian islands, wrapping the fishline around the islands and drawing them together with great strength. The only two islands that actually touched were Kauai and Oahu (even they are the two farthest apart).”

(But Maui’s project was complicated. He had eight brothers who were helping him with this unique angling expedition.(Talk about a fish story!) As it happened. . . at one point in their super striving to keep the fish Luehe on the line, the brothers got distracted by—I’m not making this up— the sight of a beautiful woman.  She must have been the first Miss Hawaii, quite an extraordinary femme fatale. Because the sight of her caused Maui’s eight brothers to lose their concentration for the matter at hand . . .)

“At that moment Luehu escaped from Maui’s line and the two islands drifted back to their original positions.

The legendary hero Maui returned to Wailua (on east shore of Kauai). His brothers had disobeyed his orders, and so he turned them into stone and sank them in the mouth of the (Wailua) river. The eight boulders remain there still.”

Now here’s the ancient tall-tale evidence that corroborates the geological, volcanic facts mentioned earlier in this blog: According to the legend abpit fearless leader Maui . . .

“At Kaena Point (on Oahu) there is a rock called Pohaku o Kauai, Rock of Kauai. It was a piece of Kauai that became stuck on Oahu when the two islands touched.”

So there you have it: the two islands of Kauai and Oahu shared a very important rock, which goes to show you . . .

These two islands— Kauai and Oahu— surely were generated from the same volcano! Either that, or they share a very big fish-tale. Take your pick which.

Glass Chimera 

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Speculating on a Stratified Story

June 25, 2012

Wandering on a rocky Hawaiian shore we discovered this layer of red rock stratified between two layers of black rock. I was wondering, how did this happen?

I am no geologist, but I have done a little reading about the earth and the rocks within it, and some exploration, as you can see here. That’s my hand in the pic.

In offering a layman’s analysis of this geological puzzle, I must begin with a basic fact: TheHawaiian islands are all exposed parts of one very big volcano, situated on the Pacific Ocean floor three miles below the surface, but extending high enough to protrude into air.

In this particular case, the red strata, formerly hidden within massive black/gray lava fields on the edge of Maui island, has been exposed by the erosive action of nearby ocean waves that have been perpetually crashing upon these rocks for a long time.

What I do now about the black layers is that they are igneous rocks formed by volcanic lava, which had flowed from the erupting earth fissures many years ago.

I’m not so sure about the red streak. My investigating touch (shown above in the pic), indicated that the texture of the red rock is granular, sandy, which is different from the feel of the black layers below and above it. This apparently sandy composition may indicate that the red layer is sedimentary rock. If that is correct, we could say that the red, iron-bearing deposit was laid by weathering wind/water forces, and laid upon the black basalt lava rock below it.

Presuming that my sedimentary assessment contains, perhaps, a grain of truth, we could infer that the red streak may indicate a more recent epoch of time when the volcanic lava flow had ceased, enabling earth processes to leave something different for awhile–say, a few thousand years? I don’t know.

A geologist could tell you. On the other hand, he may blow my whole theory to smithereens, just like the volcano, Puukukui, blew all that black rock into the location you see here.

Whatever that red layer is, obviously it was later covered by a another black volcanic lava flow, and thus was covered for many an eon until the Pacific Ocean knocked the shoreline around and taught it, and us human inquisitors, a thing or two. If you can help me interpret this stratified story, please do. Rock on.

Glass half-Full 

Planetary birth pangs

June 22, 2012

Out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about three or four miles down below the water surface, our planetary home gave birth to Hawaii.

As Father in Heaven had sewn within Mother Earth’s deep crevices the seeds of creative planetary development, she cried out from the Deep in her anguish when the aweful time of delivery had come.  With wailings of hot magma and rumblings of steamy contraction,  Mama pushed out those volcanic islands-to-be. Spewing forth from her ocean floor, striving upward from her tectonic fissures,  the nascent super-hot lava tumbled and rolled skyward from beneath its tectonic birthplace, into cold Pacific waters.  Then,  after a few million years of childlike submersion under watery tutelage, these pubescent islands stuck their stony little heads out into air and proclaimed to the birds and the stars that they had at last arrived, ready to be transformed as the land of the living.

Yesterday, we were walking on some of those rocky island shoulders. We watched with fascination as vehement Pacific waves pounded her dark lava extremities with ceaseless planetary fury, casting high cascades of spray into the blue sky with airy veils of aquamarine and silver-white brilliance. The basaltic wasteland whereon we trod was sculpted with moonish alacrity, revealing with otherworldly starkness layers of black, grey, reddish brown– solid rock punctuated with massive boulders, cracky protrusions, some rounded by the rushing of the water and wind, others still sharp with the newness of elemental violence.

Then, there is was. A small carpet of vivid green something living, splayed upon the barren rock, growing as merrily as you please in the sunshine, with little orange-tipped teardrop succulent leaves spreading across the lithic void.

“That,” said the traveler to his nephews and nieces, is the beginning of dirty old life.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress