Paradise Over Kilauea captures a birds-eye view of Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano, flying you as close as possible to red-hot lava without singeing your wings!

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     On the evening of July 8 th, 2008 we board our helicopter as an orange glow lights up the sky. The source is a two-mile long lava flow emanating from a sixty-foot high dome of lava. The chopper climbs from Hilo bay to the Pu`u `O`o cone at 2500 feet. Less than a mile to the east is the dome… pulsing red-hot lava within a spatter cone, sending a huge volume of lava downslope. A mile below the dome is a stunning lava falls as the pahoehoe lava turns into a’a at the flow front. We spend an hour documenting the spectacle which lasts for less than a week.

     A week later on July 13 th, 2008, we are once again in for a treat. A surge of lava, half again as much as is normally produced by the Pu`u `O`o vent, bursts from the tube system carrying lava to the ocean. Surface flows abound in spectacular formations… dozens coursing through the beleaguered, but largely abandonded subdivision of Royal Gardens. Channelized ‘a’a and pahoehoe flows rip through the lower eastern corner of the subdivision, forming rivers that weave over the terrain. The pahoehoe flows glide past King Avenue, turn into a’a, and stall out about a half-mile past the base of the pali. Trees burst into flames and leave blackened skeletons between the lava rivers… a twenty foot wide swath of hot rock dives back into the lava tube downslope, as we wonder how much material could possibly be swallowed up like that… still more of the Royal Gardens subdivision has been laid to waste. Every lava flow has its own signature and these images speak to the uniqueness of the day. But by midnight the rivers of lava stop as abruptly as they began… and the pali is once again dark with hardened, black lava. Thanks to the fine folks at Paradise Helicopters, we are fortunate enough to capture spectacular images both from a helicopter and on the ground.

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     Late on the evening of March 5 th, we got the news… a new eruption has begun just southwest of the Pu`u `O`o vent. At dawn we board our helicopter and race to the eruption site. The fire goddess is sending fountains of lava nearly 100 feet into the air in a “curtain of fire” nearly a half-mile long… it’s absolutely spectacular! A fissure eruption like this hasn’t been seen for a number of years and only a handful of times since the current eruption began nearly thirty years ago. As USGS scientists scurry below us, we capture lava jetting from cracks in the earth, the massive flows diving back into nearby crevices, and the fires that decimate the nearby forest. Our timing was perfect, as the FAA shut down the area to air traffic within hours of our visit. We shared it with the world, sending it to nearly every available news outlet over the next few days to the delight of volcano-lovers everywhere!

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