Our volcanoes shake, but don't stir
ON THE Big Island, there's a whole lot of shakin' goin' on and that has some friends on the mainland worried that Kilauea's about to blow up like Krakatoa and blast Hawaii somewhere east of Java.
Mainlanders are used to hearing about rain, snow and tornadoes in their weather reports, not volcano warnings. They are concerned that the hundreds of earthquakes recorded here this week mean that Hawaii is in danger. I try to explain to them that all the volcanic activity is on the Big Island, not Diamond Head crater, and that until Diamond Head starts doing the geological hula and blowing smoke rings into the air, we on Oahu are pretty cool about everything.
Kilauea could erupt on Hawaii, I point out, but Big Islanders are used to that kind of thing and have learned to stay away from hot, molten lava. (Tip: If your house is crossing the street on a river of red, liquid earth, it's time to go! Or Hawaiian! Or Aloha! Or Swim!)
Because of dramatic volcano eruptions in places like Mount St. Helens, Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, Montserrat in the Caribbean and even Krakatoa in Indonesia, some people assume that all volcanoes are the exploding kind that wipe out every village and farm and send gigantic plumes of dust and debris so high into the atmosphere that it inconveniently jams up Al Gore's contention that all of Earth's problems are George Bush's fault.
USING the highly accredited scientific "pimple/volcano analogy," I explain to my mainland friends that just as some types of pimples tend to explode from the middle of your forehead (usually just before a big date), other pimples gently release pressure through continual seepage. Kilauea is more of a seeping pimple/volcano, constantly releasing relatively small amounts of lava ( i.e. "pimple stuff") and therefore not the kind to suddenly blow up, like Krakatoa did in 1883. My friends find the analogy helpful, though exceedingly gross, and beg me to "just stop it!"
When Krakatoa erupted, it created the loudest sound ever recorded by humans. It was heard as far away as New Jersey, where a farmer tilling his fields is said to have looked up and said, "What the hell was that?" A movie with the curious title of "Krakatoa, East of Java" was made of that eruption. The title was curious because Krakatoa is east of Java the way that Hawaii is east of California, in other words, the long way around the globe.
So, while volcanologists aren't quite sure what's happening on the Big Island, they think some kind of an eruption is coming. But it's probably just the Hollywood casting kind of flowing lava eruption that forces people to flee their homes in a brisk walk, rather than swim for the horizon in panic. Or as the weatherman might say, "There's a 20 percent chance of volcanic eruption on Hawaii, East of Oahu. Carry an umbrella."
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
at any book retailer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org