Lava taking sacred
heiau on Big Isle

The Wahaula temple
is expected to be covered by
lava this evening

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Lava breached the walls of the Big island's historic Wahaula heiau this morning and was expected by the end of day to cover the 800-year-old Hawaiian temple, which is believed to once have been a place for human sacrifice.

Jim Martin, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park superintendent, said the pahoehoe stream of lava climbed over the heiau's back wall at 3 this morning and quickly filled up the floor.

map By 7:30 a.m. a good portion of the heiau was covered by the lava, which Martin described as being "fairly fluid. He expected the entire structure to be covered by this evening.

Additional lava that bypassed the structure was flowing into the sea nearby at four spots.

Harry Kim, Hawaii County Civil Defense director, said the heiau is located in a remote area nearly four miles from the end of the park's Chain of Crater's road.

The new lava flow from the Pu'u O'o vent also has covered 100 yards of a road leading into the Royal Garden subdivision, cutting off vehicle access to the area.

Kim said, however, the lava flow does not poise danger to the two homes in the subdivision.

One of the two residents who live in the subdivision decided to leave on Saturday, Kim said. The other said he has adequate provisions.

The heiau was threatened three times in 1989 and once in 1990, but the lava flowed only up to the walls before diverting around them.Kilauea has been erupting almost continuously since Jan. 3, 1983.

Ancient kahuna built the shoreline heiau complex, which includes a priest's house and the partial walls of a courtyard, on a small bluff. In 1989 and again in 1990, lava flowing six miles down the summit of Kilauea surrounded the heiau's 5-foot walls, but did not encroach them.

The nearby Wahaula Visitor Center, built by the National Park Service in 1964, was destroyed by lava in June 1989.

According to some historians, the temple offered human sacrifices and was built by Pa'ao, a high priest believed to have come from either Tahiti or Samoa.

Star-Bulletin writer Gordon Pang
contributed to this report.

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