Volcanoes and Hawaii's Newspapers

If the Hawaiian fire goddess Pele is angry with you, she may punish you in the Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island, Hawaii. A 1905 article in the Hilo Tribune describes Pele's "reception room":

"[Pele] has established over among the hot cracks a Devil's Kitchen in which the guide tells you she prepares her fiery luaus and roasts the legion of departed souls of those who were not good."

As the Native Hawaiians thought Kilauea was the body of Pele, the same article describes the eruptions as results of Pele's actions:

"For four days she played her pyrotechnics, sending tons of molten lava high into the air, and playing with hugh [sic] fragments of solidified rock as though she were scattering feathers before the wind. With rythmic [sic] and hideous noise, the echoes of slushing, slashing, dashing and lashing lava could be heard surging amidst the dark fastnesses below, as Pele turned loose her hounds of fire. Old Vulcan sent his sparks scattering across the cloak of darkness, while Pluto held sway in his realm of cold, bleak and cheerless waste, where the God of Fire in an unbridled fury had spent his spleen."

As the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory did not exist on Kilauea until 1912, Hawaii newspapers are a primary source on Hawaiian volcanoes during the 1800s. Volcanologists study the stories about the eruptions and earthquakes.

Famed volcanologist James Dwight Dana compiled some of the newspapers' accounts. Letters in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (predecessor to the Honolulu Advertiser) and the Hawaiian Gazette appeared in the The American Journal of Science and Arts. Ironically, the news articles written in the late 1800s were more accurate than those written in the early 1900s, as the latter's reporting was less accurate and more sensationalist.

News articles about Hawaii's volcanoes appeared locally and nationally. The accompanying pictures show the volcanoes with their craters, flowing lava, and lava lakes. The articles featured first person accounts of exploring Kilauea and reported the eruptions, scientific experiments, and the possibility of using Kilauea for geothermal energy.

Many articles in Hawaii newspapers describe how "Madame Pele" made Kilauea erupt. The Hawaiian Gazette describes the twin lava fountains from the lava lake of Mokuaweoweo, a summit crater of the Mauna Loa Volcano:

"... these two fountains were in constant eruption, spouting their thousands of tons of lava high in the air, and lighting the whole crater, and the heavens above, with their brilliancy."

Edwin Gill wrote about the beauty of the plants that surrounded the Volcano Road, the roadway made of lava rock that leads to the Kilauea Volcano:

"Lined on each side [of Volcano Road] with the most luguriant vegetation of the tropics, every turn and every bend brings into view a sight that seems more grand and beautiful than that which has just preceeded [sic] it. Giant tree ferns that would set the fern enthusiast into an ecstacy of delight; great creepers climbing up the Ohia trees; birds nest ferns beside which those cultivated in the yards of Honolulu look insignificant. I have seen much of the most brilliant tropical vegetation in Central America but there is nothing there to compare with that which greets the eye along the Volcano road."

The editor and owner of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Lorrin A. Thurston befriended the renowned volcanologist Thomas A. Jaggar and heavily promoted the exploration of the Big Island volcanoes in the early 1900s. Thurston described his time at Kilauea and supported the establishment of a national park for Kilauea in his editorials and cartoons in his newspaper. As head of the Hawaiian Volcano Research Association, Thurston even assisted Jaggar with his lava lake experiments, measuring the temperature of Halemaumau with Thurston's wife, son, and daughter.

Thurston and Jagger were driving forces in the building of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in 1912. They gave tours of Kilauea and Halemaumau, a significant lava lake on the volcano, to U.S. congressmen and influenced them to establish Kilauea and the area around it as the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Today, Kilauea is Hawaii's most popular attraction by the number of visitors and continues to erupt regularly. The lava tube Thurston explored is now known as the Thurston Lava Tube. Kilauea won't stop erupting anytime soon, so Hawaii newspapers will continue to report its eruptions for years to come.

- Alice Kim

Search Terms for Chronicling America:
Kilauea, Kilauea (Pacific Commercial Advertiser), Mauna Loa, Jaggar, Thurston, volcano, Madame Pele, Mokuaweoweo, and Halemaumau.

Articles on Chronicling America

"Art. XIII - Recent Eruptions of Mauna Loa and Kilauea, Hawaii." The American Journal of Science and Arts. Vol. XLVI. No. 136 (1868): 105 - 123. Journal.
On Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=yrYEAAAAYAAJ&dq=kilauea%20history&pg=PA105#v=onepage&q=kilauea%20history&f=false

Chaplin, George. Presstime in Paradise: The Life and Times of The Honolulu Advertiser, 1856-1995.
Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998.

Wright, Thomas L. and Taeko Jane Takahashi. Observations and Interpretation of Hawaiian Volcanism and Seismicity, 1779-1955: An Annotated Bibliography and Subject Index.  Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, [1989]. Print.

Sources from Chronicling America

"Kilauea Crater Continues in Eruption: Four Days of Activity, Another Outreach Occurs"
Hilo tribune., February 28, 1905, Image 1

"Kilauea Volcano on Exhibition Again: Madame Pele Comes Forth in Continuous Performance"
Hilo tribune., March 21, 1905, Image 1

"On Mokuaweoweo's Brink: Mid Snow and Ice, Scenes of Magnificent Volcanic Grandeur Are Viewed"
The Hawaiian gazette., May 08, 1896, Image 1 & 6

"Kilauea, Greatest Active Volcano in the World"
The Honolulu republican., June 16, 1901, Part II, Image 10

Articles from Hawaii Newspapers

"Visit to the Volcano: Complete Report of the Deputation of Research. Interesting Account of the Descent of Rev. E. P. Baker into Halemaumau"
Daily Honolulu press., April 03, 1886, Image 2

"Scared Natives: They Pay a Visit to Madame Pele and Are Amazed"
The Hawaiian gazette., January 31, 1893, Image 1

"Kilauea's Wonders Increased: Madame Pele Is More Active than in Eighteen Years"
The Hawaiian gazette., February 23, 1894, Page 3, Image 3

"On Mokuaweoweo's Brink: Mid Snow and Ice, Scenes of Magnificent Volcanic Grandeur Are Viewed"
The Hawaiian gazette., May 08, 1896, Image 1

"The Awakening of Pele"
Austin's Hawaiian weekly., July 15, 1899, Page 6, Image 6

"The Davey Party"
Austin's Hawaiian weekly., July 22, 1899, Page 3, Image 3

"Lava from Mauna Loa's Crater May Reach Hilo: Kilauea Is Also Smoking and Likely to Join in Sending Fiery Streams Down the Mountain sides"
The San Francisco call., July 29, 1899, Image 1

"Kilauea, Greatest Active Volcano in the World"
The Honolulu republican., June 16, 1901, Part II, Image 10

"Halemaumau Shows Signs of Great Activity and the Filling Up of the Immense Pit Progresses"
The Hawaiian gazette., June 17, 1902, Image 1

"World's Inferno: Wm T. Brigham's Description of Kilauea"
The Pacific commercial advertiser., June 17, 1902, Image 1

"Has Mauna Loa Broken Out Again?"
The Hawaiian star., September 04, 1903, Image 1

"Kilauea Shows Signs of Eruption"
The Hawaiian gazette., July 29, 1904, Image 6

"New Man for Volcano House"

The Hawaiian gazette., December 16, 1904, Image 1

"Kilauea Crater Continues in Eruption"
Hilo tribune., February 28, 1905, Image 1

"Tourists Pleased: Enjoy the Trip to the Volcano House"
The Hawaiian gazette., February 28, 1905, Page 3, Image 3

"Kilauea Volcano on Exhibition Again: Madame Pele Comes Forth in Continuous Performance"
Hilo tribune., March 21, 1905, Image 1

"Six Craters on the Puna Trail: Attraction Visitors to the Volcano Should Not Miss"
The Pacific commercial advertiser., July 20, 1905, Page 2, Image 2

"The Fiery Pit of Halemaumau"
The Hawaiian gazette., July 21, 1905, Page 6, Image 6

"Renewed Activity at Kilauea Center"
Hilo tribune., November 07, 1905, Image 1

"Fine Display of Fire in Kilauea Crater"
The Hawaiian gazette., December 28, 1906, Page 6, Image 6

"Descent Made into the Pit of Halemaumau: Extraordinary Daring Feat at Kilauea Volcano"
The Hawaiian star., September 25, 1909, SECOND EDITION, 2nd Section, Image 9

"The Volcanoes of Hawaii in 1868"
The Pacific commercial advertiser., October 09, 1910, Feature Section, Page 3, Image 15

"Volcano Students at Kilauea Are Greatly Impressed and Prepare to Place Instruments"
The Hawaiian star., July 08, 1911, SECOND EDITION, SECOND SECTION, Image 9

"Scientists Here to Study Capers of Madame Pele"
The Hawaiian gazette., May 10, 1912, Page 3, Image 3

"Imprisoned Gases of Mt. Pele still Cling to Secrets"
The Hawaiian gazette., June 04, 1912, Image 1

"Jagger on the Way to Hawaii: Recent Shocks on Hawaii Hurry Him--Expects Predicted Outbreak soon"
The Hawaiian gazette., June 07, 1912, Image 1

"Daring Scientists Delve Deep into Mysteries of Hawaii's Great Volcanoes; Interesting Theories Evolved on Activities"
Evening bulletin., June 22, 1912, 3:30 EDITION, Page 15, Image 15

Articles from Newspapers Outside of Hawaii

"Hawaii's Volcanoes"
Evening star., May 17, 1902, Image 18

"Hawaiian Volcano in Active Eruption"
Los Angeles herald., December 06, 1908, Page 15, Image 55

"To Kilauea in Satin Slippers: Milady, Clad and Shod for Fifth Avenue, May Go to Brink of Living Crater"
The San Francisco call (Hawaiian Publicity Edition), August 14, 1912, Page 14, Image 14

"Would Harness Heat of Kilauea: Borings in Volcano Suggested to See if It Can Be Converted Into Power"
The Bourbon news., June 13, 1922, Page PAGE SIX, Image 6

"Science's First Move Towards Putting a Volcano to Work"
The Morning Tulsa daily world., November 26, 1922, FINAL EDITION, COMIC AND MAGAZINE SECTION, Image 51