Halemaumau Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
On the top of Kilauea is the Halema'uma'u Crater, the best view of which is at the Halema'uma'u Overlook, about halfway around the Crater Rim Road from the Park entrance. An additional depression in the Kilauea Caldera, the crater creates something of a lunar landscape with its most recent floor formed in 1974. Note that occasionally gases are released from the crater, making this area not appropriate for asthma sufferers and those with respiratory problems. The crater is closed when Kilauea is erupting. :)
Next up is Halemanumau Crater, Pele's firepit. This creater measures 3,000 feet across and 280 feet down to the smooth lava floor. Steam reveals the presence of magma beneath the surface.
Hawaiians still leave offering here for Pele.
Halemaumau Crater is within Kilauea Caldera. Halemaumau is the home of Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, making it a sacred place to Hawaiians. It is not unusual to see offerings to Pele, such as sacred Hawaiian plants, left on the rim of the crater.
Steam can be seen constantly rising from the crater which is currently 3000 feet across and about 250 feet deep. It's changed a great deal in historical times; after the 1924 eruption the crater was almost 1200 feet deep. From 1823 to 1924 it had a continuously active lava lake, one of the area's primary attractions for visitors. This lava lake is no longer evident.
The last great eruption of Kilauea from Halemaumau was in 1924, when clouds of dust rose 20,000 feet into the air and large blocks of rock were blown out of the crater. Violent lightning storms accompanied the eruption along with rains of mud. The walls of the crater collapsed, increasing the diameter from about 1400 feet to about 3000 feet.
Crater within a crater, Halema'uma'u is about a half Mile wide. It hisses and steams. The floor is at 3412 feet, 200 feet below its rim. Recent flows date back to 1974 and a smaller event in 1982. Pele, the Hawaiian creator and destroyer, is in ready evidence. There is a large carpark on the south rim of Halema'uma'u, just off the Crater Rim Drive. The Halema'uma'u Trail goes across the floor of Kilauea from here toward the Volcano House - 2.4 miles of flat crater floor and 0.4 miles and 300 feet of calderan cliffs.
A caldera is a large, basin-shaped volcanic depression, more or less circular and has a diameter which is many times greater than that of the included vent or vents held within it.
Halemaumau Crater, a steaming fire pit, is a pit crater within the heart of Kilauea Caldera. Collapses that are smaller than the summit caldera collapses are called pit craters and Halemaumau is an example of this. Pit craters can occur both in the summit region and along rift zones. The upper reaches of Kilauea’s East Rift Zone (ERZ) are dotted with these depressions, giving the name “Chain of Craters” to the road that leads from the volcano toward the sea. This road has been blocked by lava flows and reopened several times.
The Halemaumau Pit Crater is a big crater within Kilauea Caldera. From 1823-1924, Halemaumau was the site of most of Kilauea's volcanic activity. There was an active lava lake within the crater which many tourists and geologists took pictures of. A huge eruption and many explosions took place in Halemaumau in 1924. Most of the debris thrown out during the eruption was extremely hot, however none of the material was new. This material thrown out was actually old magma from the inner walls of the crater. It is thought that suddenly heated groundwater caused these unusual explosions. Fortunately, there was only one death that resulted from this eruption. Hot falling rocks killed a photographer who was too close.
It is possible to look into Halemaumau Crater and see the huge cooled lava lake. There are many fascinating features of Halemaumau, such as steam and sulfur vents and unusual spatter ramparts.
The ancient Hawaiians thought that this was the home of Pele.