Weathered: Lava’s Journey to the Bottoms of My Feet

Hawaii's Black Sand Beach

Hawaii's Black Sand Beach

Although our week on the Big Island of Hawaii is nearing its end, I managed to incorporate our visit to Volcanoes National Park into the Weekly Photo challenge: Weathered.

Where did the sand of the famous Black Sand Beach at Punahu’u come from?

Weathering is the change of appearance or texture of dried lava rock over countless eons of exposure to the elements.

Most folks know that the island chain of Hawaii was created over tens of thousands of years of volcanic activity,  which continues to this day. In fact, the volcano, known as the Kilauea Caldera, is active and attracts millions of curious tourists each year to the Big Island.

A look at the Kilauea Caldera over three miles wide. Another crater within the caldera spews out sulfuric steam through it’s vents as water enters cracks in the rocks and comes in contact with the magma.

Hawaii's Kileaua Caldera

When a weakness in the Earth’s crust causes an eruption, the lava flows over the land and into the ocean. As it cools it leaves curious shapes that gradually erode over time.

Some of the lava rock is used for fencing and landscaping, being an abundant, natural, and inexpensive resource to use. Like any natural element, it continues to weather over time, as shown on the lava rock fence below.

Lava Rock used as Fence

This photo was taken at the historic Volcano House across from the Caldera, the steam vent seen in the distance.

Black Sand Beach at Punahu'uThere are a few black sand beaches on the Big Island and one on Maui, all near volcanic sites. The weathering process of the air and ocean water eventually breaks the lava rock down into fine sand that inevitably finds it’s way under the soles of your bare feet, as featured in the image above.  The lava flows in this area are considered the southeast rift zone of Kilauea which flows toward Punalu’u beach This sand was silky soft and amazing to see and feel.

For native Hawaiians, the Kilauea Caldera is the home of Pelehonuamea–Pele of the earth–the goddess of fire and volcanoes, and the creator and rejuvenator of new lands. Plaque at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Visiting the Big Island (anywhere in the Hawaiian Islands) has long been on my bucket list. Feeling the black sands beneath my toes was another. A few more items have been checked off, too, so stay tuned!


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