This is Steve Ember.
Kilauea lava flow
And this is Sarah Long with the VOA Special English program
EXPLORATIONS. Today, we visit two of the most unusual national
parks in the United States. They are Volcanoes National Park
and Haleakala National Park, both in Hawaii.
Let me ask you a question: What is the tallest mountain on
Earth? Most school children will say the answer is Mount Everest
near the border between Nepal and Tibet.
There is something that is three-hundred-four meters taller
than Mount Everest. However, it is mainly underwater. It begins
at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and rises more than seventeen
kilometers from the ocean floor.
(Photo - J.D. Griggs, 1985)
Its name is Mauna Loa. In the Hawaiian language, Mauna Loa means
¡°Long Mountain.¡± Mauna Loa is more
than half of the island of Hawaii, the largest of the Hawaiian
It is also the largest and most active volcano on Earth. It
has produced liquid rock called lava more than thirty times
since records were first kept in eighteen-forty-three. Today,
Mauna Loa is quiet. It is not producing lava. However volcano
experts say it is only a matter of time before this happens
Mauna Loa is not the only volcano on the island of Hawaii.
There are four others. Three of them are no longer active. One
of them still is active. It is named Kilauea. It has produced
lava more than fifty times in the last one-hundred years. At
this moment, red hot lava is pouring out of Kilauea. It has
been doing this since nineteen-eighty-three.
Sometimes the lava moves slowly. At other times it pours out
very fast as huge amounts of pressure force it from the volcano.
During these times, it moves almost as quickly as water moving
down the side of a mountain. Sometimes Kilauea produces large
amounts of lava that seem like rivers of fire.
Two views of Kilauea
(Photos - U.S. Geological Survey)
When the lava from Kilauea reaches the ocean, its fierce heat
produces great amounts of steam that rise into the air. The
lava is so hot it continues to burn underwater for some time.
The lava from Kilauea continues to add land to the island as
the volcanoes of Hawaii have always done. It is these volcanoes
that formed the islands of Hawaii.
Most of the time the lava of Kilauea seems to move peacefully
toward the ocean. Yet it is not as peaceful as it seems from
a distance. In recent years the lava destroyed one small town
on the island. The liquid rock slowly covered the town. It blocked
roads and destroyed them. Nothing can stop the lava of Kilauea.
Experts say the volcanoes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea are a serious
threat to property on many parts of the island.
Experts say the volcanoes of the island of Hawaii are proof
that the changing environment of Earth is and will always remain
beyond human control.
Mauna Loa and Kilauea together form Volcanoes National Park
in Hawaii. But another national park has a huge volcano. It
is on the island of Maui. It is the Haleakala National Park.
Haleakala in the Hawaiian language means ¡°House of
(Photo - Tracy Erwin/National Park Service)
Haleakala is another huge volcano. Together with a smaller,
much older volcano it helped form the island of Maui. It is
no longer considered to be active. In about seventeen-ninety,
two areas in the side of the huge volcano opened and lava came
out. The lava moved down the mountain and into the sea. That
was the last recorded activity at Haleakala.
The volcano that contains Haleakala National Park rises three-thousand-fifty
meters above the sea. We would like to take you for a visit
to Haleakala. For a few minutes, sit back while we drive the
road up to the top of the volcano.
Our trip begins near the ocean today. We drive through the
city of Kahului. We see businesses and homes, the buildings
you find in any American city. There are more flowers than in
many American cities. The Hawaiian Islands are famous for their
Soon the road begins to go up. The road moves back and forth
and around corners as it moves up the face of the mountain.
At times our driver must slow the vehicle and turn very sharply.
Soon, there are no more homes or stores.
From the city of Kahului to the top of Haleakala is about fifty-five
kilometers. We will be three-thousand-fifty meters higher at
the top of the mountain.
Very soon, we no longer see trees. We have traveled too high
for them to survive. Soon there are only a few plants. Then
there is nothing but black lava rock. At one place, we begin
to enter the clouds that hang close to the mountain. Our driver
turns on the head lights of the vehicle. Ten minutes later,
we are above the clouds in the bright sunshine.
The road is good, so the trip takes only about an hour.
The National Park headquarters is about two kilometers from
the top. Park officials at the information center tell you about
the history of the volcano. They say that it is very safe ...
today. They also tell you that it could very well become active
again. The experts just do not know.
We soon leave the park headquarters and travel up again, this
time to the top. There is an area here to leave our vehicle.
We walk the last few meters to the top.
As we reach the top, almost everyone says similar things. How
strange! Did the violence of a volcano form this? This is so
We are on the top looking down inside what was the most active
part of the volcano. The shape is almost like a circle except
the sides have been stretched, almost the shape of an egg but
There are only a few plants here and no trees. However the
volcano has left thousands of different shapes of lava stone.
Hundreds of years of rain and bright sun have cut long paths
in the stone.
Time has turned the oldest lava to a soft sand. There are huge
mountains. There are also smaller hills that seem to be made
of ash or sand. The place is a riot of color.
One big mountain seems to be a deep dark red. Another area
seems almost yellow. Another is green, and still another is
a beautiful brown color. One area is colored gray that seems
to move into a deep black. It looks as if some one has spilled
many colors of paint over the huge area. The volcano produced
these colors because the lava is very rich in many kinds of
The area we are seeing stretches for a long distance. This
morning, high on the mountain in the bright sun, we can see
almost forty kilometers of the park. And this is only part of
it. There are eleven-thousand-five-hundred-ninety-six hectares
of land in the park.
Some of the park is closed to visitors. Scientists do research
in those areas. Experts are trying to learn how to grow and
protect some of the very unusual plants that live in Haleakala.
One of these plants is called the silver sword. It grows only
in Hawaii. It has long thin silver leaves. It is very beautiful
The Hawaiian nay-nay goose also lives here. It is a large bird.
Visitors are asked not to come too near the nay-nay. Experts
are helping both the silver sword plants and the nay-nay geese
to reproduce so they will not disappear from the Earth.
Thousands of visitors each year enjoy Haleakala National Park
on the island of Maui, and Mauna Loa and Kilauea on the island
of Hawaii. Ships stop at the two islands and buses take the
groups of visitors to see these huge volcanoes.
Many people also fly over the volcanoes in airplanes or helicopters.
This is a safe and popular method of watching Kilauea¡¯s
lava moving slowly toward the ocean. Other people see it from
ships.Visitors also may walk into the rain forest created by
the volcano thousands of years ago. Here they can see Waimoku
Falls where water drops one-hundred-twenty meters down the face
of a mountain.
Both parks offer visitors a sight of nature that most people
never have the chance to enjoy. Visitors can see how an active
volcano adds mass to the island. And they can see inside a volcano
that has been silent for hundreds of years.
The United States Park Service is responsible for both Haleakala
and the Hawaii National Volcanoes Park. It works hard to keep
both these areas as nature created them.
This Special English program was written and produced by Paul
Thompson. Our recording engineer today was Bob Phillips. This
is Sarah Long.
And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another
EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.
This V-O-A Explorations Report is published
courtesy of VOAnews.com