Hawaiian tourism officials urged tourists to respect cultural and spiritual significance when they head to a Big Island national park to view the latest eruption of Kilauea volcano, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
Kilauea, Hawaii’s second-largest volcano, began erupting Wednesday after a three-month hiatus. News of its eruption spread quickly, prompting crowds to flock to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The US Geological Survey’s Hawaii Volcano Observatory lowered Kilauea’s alert level on Thursday as the lava flow decreased and no infrastructure is under threat. The activity of the volcano is limited to the closed zone of the park.
“Out of respect for the cultural and spiritual significance of a volcanic eruption and crater area for many Kamaʻāina, the Hawai’i Tourism Authority urges conscientiousness when planning a visit to the volcano,” the Hawai’i Tourism Authority said. in a statement released Wednesday night, using a Hawaiian word often used for Hawaiian residents.
For many Native Hawaiians, a volcano eruption has deep and very personal cultural significance. Some sing chants, others pray to ancestors, and still others honor the moment with hula dancing.
News of the lava flows from Kilauea spread quickly, drawing crowds to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. “Expect significant delays and limited parking due to high visitor numbers,” a warning on the park’s website said Thursday.
Several thousand viewers followed a live broadcast from the US Geological Survey showing moving red rivers of lava Thursday morning.
“We were on social media and we saw it was going to erupt when we were here, so we drove from the Kona side,” Andrew Choi, who is visiting with his family from Orange County, California, told the Hawaii Tribune. Herald. “We feel ridiculously lucky. We had never seen anything like it.”
Park officials suggested visiting at less crowded times, before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
Scientists forecast the eruption to continue and remain confined to the park’s Halemaumau crater.
Early Wednesday, the lava fountains reached 200 feet (60 meters) in height and decreased to 13 to 30 feet (4 to 9 meters) by afternoon, according to the observatory.