Living on the Edge of Hawaii's Active Volcano

E-mail William La Jeunesse

On-the-Scene Photos
Video: Active Volcano Erupting

June 8, 2007

I've never been on the moon, but today came close.

We left the hotel at 4:30 a.m. Drove an hour to a trailhead and began walking. No trees, shrubs or any sign of life. Just rock — as far as you could see. Rocks twisted and torqued into grotesque shapes like something out of Dante's Inferno. Others looked like bloated pillows that leaked and spurted red-hot lava, molten rock that melted our shoes, fried our audio cables and cooked our pop tarts.

And even though some rocks looked like piles of yarn, their edges were sharp as razors, leaving tiny slices in our hands, and baby cinders embedded in our skin.

Producer Chris Spinder, photographer Eric Barnes and myself traveled to the Big Island of Hawaii, home to the world's most active volcano — Kilauea — to locate its newest lava falling into the sea. As the sun rose, we saw a huge plume of steam about two miles ahead.

There, spilling into the sea, the lava provided a visual feast as fire and water clashed. Clouds of steam enveloped the coastline and obscured the molten rock that spewed from the Earth's core like a fast moving river. The steam blasted our faces with microscopic drops of boiling water as ocean winds whipped the sauna-like atmosphere. Filled with sulfur, the steam made you cough and choke. During Thursday's
Studio B segment, Spinder, who was closer to coast, put a towel over his mouth so as not to ingest too much of the poisonous fumes.

Video: Active Volcano Erupting in Hawaii

And while the steam was enough to singe your skin, heat radiating from the rocks below sucked whatever energy you tried to conserve. Molten lava exceeds 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. About 30 feet away from a column of red hot flowing lava, the air temperature felt about 150 degrees - hot, but bearable. Every foot closer, it seemed to jump another 50 degrees. So we got close as possible, just long enough to make television.

Pele is the Hawaiian volcano goddess. After visiting the lava fields, locals leave little tributes behind for Pele. Cigarettes and beers are common. So are flowers and prayers. Pele blessed our day with great pictures. I left the script that described her daily behavior under one rock and tucked my pen between two others. Hopefully, it won't cause indigestion.

E-mail William La Jeunesse

William La Jeunesse joined FOX News Channel’s Los Angeles bureau as a reporter in March of 1998. Click here to read his complete bio.

William La Jeunesse joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in March 1998 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.