Halemaumau is the crater within the caldera. It's floor is measured at 3,412 feet above sea level, whereas the floor of the rest of the Kilauea caldera is higher at approximately 3,640 (the rim near the Volcano House is 3,980)
This crater last had some activity in 1974. It is a spectacular feature of the caldera, and with it's contrasting white walls, it looks like a moon crater reminding you that you are some place special.
The pateo of the Volcano House is one of the best places to get an overview of the Kilauea caldera.
As you can tell I was here on a very nice day. The east rim is within a rainforest area so the rain is frequent. It is convenient to stay here at Volcano House so you can be sure to pop out when the weather clears.
The path along the rim to the Jaggar Museum is an excellent hike to experience the wonderful diversity of habitat and obtain many varied views of the caldera. You will also be able to witness the geothermal phenomonon of the Steaming Bluff.
Here on a good day looking north you can almost see the summit of old round top to the north. Although it measures to within a few feet of the height of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa always looks much shorter if you observe it from the base.
Mauna Loa slopes ever so gradually and regularly from the base to the top whereas Mauna Kea seems to jut straight upward with a more craggy appearance making Mauna Kea by far the more spectacular of the two.
Checking the island map, you will see that the summit area of Mauna Loa is within the park. There is a road to a trailhead above the 6000 foot mark where you can hike to the top of Mauna Loa. When you hike it you will be above the clouds.
It is rather rare that you get such a clear view of Mauna Kea way over by Hilo like this. It was about the first shot I took at 8 AM and not too long thereafter the sky turned overcast and eventually you couldn't see the nearer Mauna Loa either.
The observatories atop Mauna Kea were clearly visible with the eye when I saw this, so I am considering getting a camera with a more powerful lens.
|Life in the Caldera
It is amazing how mother nature covers up her scars. Here you see vegetation already growing right up the side of the caldera. The other side of the caldera has sulphur gas flowing more freely out of the cracks, but even there, down at the lower level, you will be able to signs of plant life. This is mostly made possible I suspect by the amount of rain here.
Fortunately the trade winds here blow mostly east to west, so most of the time the escaping gases blow away from Volcano House.