Hawaii was built by heaps of lava that rose from the seabed over millions of years, eventually piling high enough to poke through the Pacific Ocean. Most of the islands wrapped this up long ago, but Hawaii is still growing — and thanks to a mesmerizing new film, so is our appreciation of its beauty.
Five different volcanoes created Hawaii's Big Island, three of which are still considered active: Hualalai, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Hualalai hasn't erupted since 1801 and Mauna Loa's last big outburst was in 1984, but Kilauea has been continuously erupting for the past 32 years, making it one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. Unlike the violent eruptions some volcanoes produce, Kilauea releases lava with a low gas content, letting it ooze slowly from the surface like a river of molten rock.
Kilauea draws more than a million visitors every year, and its current eruption has been well-documented over three decades by photographers and filmmakers from around the planet. Yet Big Island native Lance Page has still found a way to cast Kilauea in a new light, filling the 6-minute film above with mind-melting scenes like lava burning down a moonlit rainforest or psychedelic stripes spreading across the lava lake in Halemaumau Crater, home of Hawaiian fire goddess Pele.
Page grew up on the slopes of nearby Mauna Loa, he writes on Vimeo, but only recently learned to appreciate Kilauea. Now based in Portland, he "hadn't had the chance to come face to face with her incredible presence" until 2014, when he began the new film with co-producer Wesley Young.
"I've never been anywhere else on the planet that demanded as much respect and awareness for the natural environment around me," Page writes. "Her unexpected beauty and unsettling sense of danger were nothing short of humbling and put so much into perspective. Kilauea really did change my life."
Kilauea's lava normally flows south into the sea, where it creates new land, but a quirk of geology sometimes forces it inland instead. That has happened several times during the current eruption, including a lava flow that destroyed the village of Kalapana in 1990. It began happening again in June 2014, spurring a slow-motion crisis that has burned swaths of forest and threatened homes for miles. Page caught amazing video of this flow scorching ferns and toppling trees as it crept through a rainforest, illustrating the risk, beauty and inevitability of lava in the land of Pele.
"Many in Hawaii refer to the lava as 'Pele', the Hawaiian goddess of fire," Page writes. "After our incredible experiences at the volcano it's not hard to see why so many islanders to this day see her as a living breathing thing. I wanted to capture her beauty and mysteriousness as well as her unimaginable power in the best way that I knew how. I wanted to just see it doing what it does."
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