Eruption 150 years ago, 1868.


Up to Wednesday, 29th ult., there has been no further accounts of volcanic action on Hawaii. The earthquakes have ceased in violence and frequency, although the whole islands is still moved by slight vibrations. There was a smart shock felt in Kohala on Thursday, also the same day, a slight vibration here in Honolulu.

There are reports that the lava has again broken out in Kapapala, but we do not credit it.

We are happy to give our readers a clear and intelligent account of the late volcanic action on Hawaii, from the pen of the Hon. William Hillebrand, M. D., who has just returned from a close examination of the disturbed districts.

The account of the lava fissure at Kahuku, is entirely new to the public. H. I. M.’s Commissioner and Consul, M. Beranger, who made the tour with Dr. Hillebrand, has made a number of sketches of the most interesting volcanic appearances.

To the Editor of the Hawaiian Gazette:

Sir: Having just returned from a journey across the scene of the late volcanic convulsions on Southern Hawaii, I hasten to give you a statement of what I observed there. Let me state here at once that I started from Hilo, with a few friends, for Kilauea April 17th; descended the crater on the 18th; examined the extensive fissures near the Puna road on the 20th; the so called mud flow on the 21st, and the lava stream in Kahuku on the 23d. On the 24th we crossed the lava stream on the road to Kona, and reached Kealakekua Bay on April 26.

Of Hilo I have little to say, as your correspondents have communicated to you the most remarkable events from that place. I saw several fissures in the earth near Wahiawa River, of from eight inches to one foot in width, which were caused by the earthquake of April 2nd, and run in the direction of Mauna Loa. The earthquake waves all moved from southwest to northeast, and overturned moveable objects standing at right angles with that line. A heavy bookcase in the Rev. T. Coan’s library, holding that relation to the wave, was overturned, while another heavy case, filled with shells and minerals, which stood parallel to it, remained standing.


The ground around the crater, particularly on the eastern and western sides, is rent by a great number of fissures, one near the Puna road more than twelve feet wide and very deep; others of lesser size run parallel to and cross the Kau road, so as to render travel on it very dangerous. The look-out house is detached from the main land by a very deep crevasse, and stands now on an isolated, overhanging rock,which, at the next severe concussion, must tumble into the pit below. Many smaller fissures are hidden by grass and bushes, forming so many traps for the unwary. The Volcano House, however, has not suffered, nor is the ground surrounding it broken in the least. From the walls of Kilauea large masses of rock have been detached and thrown down. On the west and north-west side, where the fire had been most active before the great earthquake of April 2nd, the falling masses probably have been at once melted by the lava and carried off in its stream, for the walls there, remain as perpendicular as they were before, but that this part of the wall has lost portions of its mass, is shown too evidently by the deep crevices along the western edge just spoken of, and the partial detachment in many places of large prisms of rock. But it is on the east and north-east wall particularly that the character of the crater has undergone a change. Along the descent on the second ledge large masses of rock, many, more than 100 tons in weight, obstruct the path and form abutments to the stone pillars—small buttress hills similar to those observed in front of the high basaltic wall in Koolau, Oahu. So also in the deep crater itself, the eastern wall has lost much of its perpendicular dip, and has become shelving in part.

The crater itself was entirely devoid of liquid lava; no incandescence anywhere; pitchy darkness hovered over the abyss the first night. I say the first night, because during the second night of our stay, between 12 and 1 a. m., detonations were heard again, and light reappeared for a short time in the South Lake. White vapors of steam issued from the floor in a hundred places, but of those stifling, sulphurous and acid gases formerly so overpowering, in the neighborhood of the lakes and ovens, only the faintest trace was perceived here and there. The heat was nowhere so great that we could not keep our footing for a minute or more, although in many places it would forbid the touch of the bare hand. The great South Lake is transformed into a vast pit, more than 500 feet deep, the solid eastern wall projecting far over the hollow below, while the remaining sides are falling off with a sharp inclination, and consist of a confused mass of sharp aa. More than two-thirds of the old floor of Kilauea has caved in, and sunk from 100 to 300 feet below the level of the remaining floor. The depression embraces the whole western half, and infringes in a semicircular line on a considerable portion of the other half. It is greatest in the northern, and rather gradual and gentle in its southern portion. Entering upon the depressed floor from  the southern lake, it was some time before we became fully aware of its existence. It was only on our return from the north-west corner, where it is deepest, that there presented itself through the mist in which we were enveloped, a high wall of 300 feet of grotesque and fantastic outlines. At first we were quite bewildered, fancying that we beheld the great outer wall of the crater. On nearer approach we soon satisfied ourselves that this singular wall represented the lines of demarkation of a great depression in the door of the crater—a fact that surprised us the more, as a birdseye view from above had altogether failed to apprise us of its existence.

As we had been informed that the principal activity of the crater before the great earthquake had been in the northwest corner, we proceeded in that direction on leaving the south lake. Having arrived at about the middle of the depression, a considerable rise in the ground presented itself on our left—to the west. Having ascended this, we found ourselves at the brink of a fearful chasm, which fell off on our side with a beetling wall to the depth of several hundred feet, and extended about half a mile from north to south. Very hot air rose from it. Around it, towards its northern extremity, the lava is thrown up into an indescribable confusion; pile upon pile of aa, gorge and ridge by turns.

The caving in of the floor seemed to be still in progression, for twice during our exploration of the crater, our neres were disturbed by a prolonged heavy rumbling and rattling noise, as from a distant platoon fire of musketry, coming from the northwest corner.

In the afternoon I visited Kilauea iki, that small crater, hardly half a mile distant, easward, from the great one. I saw it in 1862, when the bottom and sides were covered with shrubs and small trees. Now the bottom is covered with a shining floor of black lava, and the dark patches along its sides, give abundant evidence of fire in grass and bush. I take its depth to be about the same as that of the large crater.

Thus far, as to what we have seen. Now allow me to relate what I learnt from Kaina, who has resided near the volcano without interruption for the last five months, and whose strong nerves sustained him during the fearful catastrophe introduced by the earthquake of April 2d. He, and the Chinaman who keeps the house, were the only persons who remained at Kilauea. He says that for two months preceding the first shock, viz., from Jan. 20 to March 29, the crater had been unusually active; eight lakes being in constant ebullition, and frequently overflowing. During all this time, (the date of its first appearance could not be ascertained exactly) there was in the northwest corner a “blow-hole,” from which, at regular intervals, of a minute or less, with a roaring n oise, large masses of vapor were thrown off, as from a steam engine. This ceased about the 17th of March. At the same time the activity of the lakes became greatly increased, and Kaina anticipated mischief. March 27, the first shock was perceived. Two days later, Mr. Fornander found the bottom of the crater overflowed with fresh lava and incandescent.

Thursday, April 2d, at a few minutes past four, p. m., the big earthquake occured, which caused the ground around Kilauea to rock like a ship at sea. At that moment, there commenced fearful detonations in the crater, large quantities of lava were thrown up to a great height; portions of the wall tumbled in. This extraordinary commotion, accompanied with unearthly noise and ceaseless swaying of the ground, continued from that day till Sunday night, April 5th, but from the first, the fire began to recede. On Thursday night, it was already confined to the regular lakes; on Saturday night, it only remained in the great south lake, and on Sunday night there was none at all; Pele had left Kilauea. The noises now became weaker, and were separated by longer intervals. By Tuesday, quiet reigned in Kilauea. On that afternoon the lava burst out at a distance fo forty miles, southwest, in Kahuku.

April 2d, from six to ten, p. m., Kaina observed fire in the direction of Puna, which, at the time, caused him to believe that the lava had found a vent again in that direction, as it did in 1840; but he subsequently satisfied himself that it was only a reflection from lava in Kilauea iki. It was not seen afterward.

It is needless to comment on the important bearing of the facts related, upon rational analysis of the phenomenon constituting the late catastrophe. As my worthy friend Kaina, the proprietor of the Volcano House, was much troubled about the sudden disappearance of Madam Pele, and desired that on my return to the capital, I should express my opinion that said lady was only on temporary leave of absence, I acquit myself of this debt of gratitude for the valuable information received with so much the more pleasure, as I believe, I can do it with a good conscience. Kilauea has been dry once before, after the great flow in 1840. This information I have from that faithful chronicler of the Hawaiian Volcanoes, the Rev. Mr. T. Coan at Hilo, as also another very important one, viz.: that this present eruption has been the first instance of simultaneous activity in Kilauea and the crater of Mokuaweoweo on the summit of Mauna Loa. That lava issued in three streams from the summit of the mountain on April 28, is corroborated by many eye-witnesses in Kau.


In Kapapala we were told that fire had been seen several nights in a S. E. direction, and that natives had reported flowing lava there. We rode over in the morning of April 20th. At a distance of 5 miles from Mr. Reed’s dwelling, where the Puna road turns off from the Kilauea road, heavy clouds of white vapor were seen to issue from the bush, which sparsely covered the pahoehoe, makai of the road. Half an hour’s ride brought us up to the place, but we were obliged to leave our horses some distance before reaching the spot, on account of fissures. After having crossed a number of them, heading for the heaviest cloud of vapor, we at last came to a deep crevasse in the pahoehoe, at least 24 feet in width, no bottom visible. It narrowed and widened out in places, but nowhere was less than 8 feet wide. Its lenght we estimated at 400 feet. Parallel with thi great crevasse constituting a belt about 600 feet in width, were a number of smaller ones on each side, diminishing in size with distance from it, from 6 feet to a few inches. From the larger openings in the former leavy white columns of hot steam issued, which had a decidedly alkaline smell. Smaller jjets of vapor, to the number of 30, rose from the smaller fissures. we could not discover fire in any place, but it is very probable that during dark nights the reflex of the underlying lava should be thrown up, for as the steam did not seem to contain combustible material it is unlikely that the light seen should have been produced by it. The mean direction of all the fissures was N. E. 9 degrees N., S. W. 9 degrees S., or nearly the direction of a line connecting Kilauea with Waiohinu and Kahuku. The distance of these fissures from Kilauea is 13 miles.


As in this district the earthquake of April 2nd culminated to its greatest intensity, so as even to rend it twain the framework of a mountain side, and hurl down on the plain a portion of its flank, it is necessary to give a short description of the country in order to insure a proper understanding of the disturbance. The locality in question is that comprised between the ranch station of Messrs Reed & Richardson, on the east, and Mr. F. Lyman, on the west, a distance of five miles. The government road connecting these two places runs through a fine grassy plain, which has a very gentle fall towards the sea, its elevation being about 2,000 feet. Into this plain project from the slope of Mauna Loa three parallel hills or spurs, each about one mile in length, and from 800 to 1,000 feet in height. They include two broad valleys between them. The upper portions of these valleys rise with a steep incline towards a ridge which runs at right angles with the spurs, and is covered with a dense pulu forest, which extends far up the gentle slope of the dome of Mauna Loa. In the second one of these valleys—that next to Mr. Lyman’s—the so called mud-flow took place, but very extensive landslides, confined simply to the loose earth and conglomerate, also occurred in the other valleys.

The ground around Reed & Richardson’s station is torn up into numerous small cracks and fissures, running in every direction. Some are large enough to engulf, horse and rider, a fact which actually occurred a few days after the earthquake. A large cistern, built in solid masonry and covered with an arched stone roof, was rent to pieces, and the roof entirely broken away. Not a single stone fence is standing; their places are indicated by flat belts of stone on the ground. The dwelling house—a good wooden framed one—exhibits a wrench across its roof, so that the gutters empty themselves in the sitting room; the cookhouse is thrown off its foundation; other out-buildings are completely overturned; and of the grass houses some are smashed down, others, greatly inclined. But all these signs of destruction are thrown in the shade by the grandeur of the force which shook off the side of the pali, burying in a minute thirty-one human beings, many hundred head of cattle, and entire flocks of goats, and ending four miles from its beginning in a mighty river of mud. Before reaching this mud-flow from Reed’s house, we passed two considerable streams of muddy water, of a reddish yellow color, emitting a strong odor of clay, such as may be perceived in potteries. Both streams have their origin in the land-slide of the first valley. when we passed them again, two days later, they had nearly disappeared: they evidently owed their origin to the drainage of the fallen mass. The mud-flow is met with three miles from Reed’s. It projects itself from the spurs of the hills two miles down on the plain; begins at once with a thickness of six feet, which, towards the middle, where it forms a small hill, rises to thirty feet; averages about three-fourths of a mile in width, and contracts towards its end. From this end a long queue of boulders bears witness to the violent action of a torrent which shot out of the mud after it was deposited, and which has since perpetuated itself in a stream of some size, quite muddy, and emitting the above mentioned pottery odor when we saw it first on April 20, but perfectly clear and inodorous when we passed it three days later. A little higher up a koa grove gives still stronger evidence to the strength of the propelling force. The trees first seized are snapped off and prostrate, yet the mud in that place is only a few feet deep. The mass itself is nothing but the loose red soil of the mountain side, with a good sprinkling of round boulders, with here and there stumps of trees, ferns, hapuu and amaumau, and entire lehua trunks. Near the lower end a vigorous, healthy taro plant stood erect in the mud, as if it had been planted there. From its sides protruded portions of the bodies of many cattle and goats, overwhelmed in their flight—a gain of one second in time might have saved them. The surface of the mud in this lower course was rather smooth, as if it had been forced down by the agency of water, and it was still so soft that the feet sank deep into it.

After we had flanked it for some distance along the side of the hill, the mud became solid enough to bear our weight, and we walked upon it to the head of the pali. The surface gradually became more rough; the boulders increased, and detached portions of earh and stone were scattered beyond its borders, which also flattened out gradually. The ascent soon became steep, and here, on a short spur, just in the middle of the mud, stands a native house on an island of grass and taro, flanked by two trees. A poor woman who happened to be in it at the time of the outbreak, escaped the awful fate which doomed the remaining members of her family, and was removed from her perilous situation a few days after, when the crust had become solid enough to bear a man’s weight.

As we went on, the mass became more rough and hard, tree trunks and boulders increased, even angular rocks appeared, until at last the mud ceased entirely and gave place to a sea of huge rocks, all angular and exhibiting fresh fractures, large trunks of trees crushed between and under them, and streamlets of fresh clear water meandering between them This continued for the last 300 feet of rise, and ended in a perpendicular wall of solid rock, some 20 feet high, after having climbed which, we reposed under the refreshing shade of tall fern trees, for we had entered at once the great pulu forest. Seated on the trunk of a prostrate tree, we could survey the whole field of devastation we had just traversed. Immediately at our feet the rocky framework of the pali was torn up, and its contents turned topsy turvy in dire confusion. The rocky wall we had just climbed, continued itself until it reached the sides of the two flanking hills. A perpendicular cut in the sides of the latter laid open some 40 feet of red earth and conglomerate. On looking behind us we saw that the rock we were resting on was separated from the mountain by a deep crevasse, parallel to the wall, and only partly visible as it extended under the dense trees. To our left, a clear, sparkling mountain stream leaped in a bouncing cascade over the crag, and after losing its course amid the maze of rocks, gathered itself again flowing over the solid bed-rock in a deep gorge cut in the mud. This stream had existed here before, but ere it reached half down the pali, became lost in the soil. It can easily be imagined what an amount of subsoil water must have been deposited here. Bearing this in mind, and the great depth of soil and conglomerate on this slope, as indicated by the cuts in the hill sides, there seems to be no great difficulty to explain how such enormous masses of earth, at first porpelled horizontally through the air, hurled down the valley by the tremendous force which tore off the side of the mountain, should then have been seized by the propelling force of the now liberated subsoil water, and carried in a mighty stream far beyond the place where at first they were deposited.

On returning, we concluded to reach and follow the ridge of the hill flanking the stream on our left. Having arrived there, we could survey the extent of the land-slides on the opposite side of the hill, which were considerable. From this place, our guide pointed out to us a human figure in the distance, moving slowly over the dreary field. It was a husband searching for the body of his wife. Our guide, himself, poor fellow, mourned the loss of a wife, two little boys, and both parents. All slept their long sleep under that field of desolation. Following the crest of the hill still covered with grass and wood, we were startled by the number of fissures and crevices intersecting it in every direction. In some places, one was tempted to say that more space was occupied by them than by the solid crust.

The direction of the solid rock wall and the crevasse in the forest, in northeast by north to southwest by south, nearly parallel to a line connecting Kilauea with the lava outbreak in Kahuku. The stream running from the mud-flow is likely to remain permanent, as it is a continuance of the mountain stream above, and now runs upon exposed solid bed-rock.

All this destruction was the work of the great earthquake of April 2d. During the five days preceding it, over one thousand shocks had been counted. On that afternoon Mr. Harbottle, at Reed’s, with his men was driving cattle across the hill towards Hilo, when suddenly the earth shook violently and a great detonation was heard behind them.Horses and cattle turned round involuntarily. The whole atmosphere before them was red and black. In a very short time this subsided—some say in one minute, others in five minutes; but a black cloud continued to hover over the scene for some time. A native who resided less than half a mile from the scene, and who had friends living on the hill, found courage enough to run to it half an hour after the occurrence. He thrust his hand in the mud and found it cold.

From that Thursday to Sunday the earth constantly rocked and swayed, the hills seemed to alternately approach and recede. Most people became seasick. Strange roaring and surging noises were heard under the ground. When the ear was applied to the earth it would often receive a distinct impression as if a subterranean wave struck against the earth’s crust. The prevailing direction of the earthquake waves was said to have been from N. E. to S. W.

During the twenty-four hours of April 21, we experienced twenty shocks at Kapapala. From the upper road from Kapapala to Waiohinu, (the lower road has been rendered impassable by the encroachments of the sea), several minor land slides were observed on the hills; most houses were injured more or less; no stonewall remained anywhere All the people from near the beach had taken refuge on higher lands near the upper road. My professional services were called for by many people who had been injured by the great oceanic earthquake waves. The great wave rose to a height of 25 feet, and according to reliable information, portions of the coast-line have subsided considerable. In some places cocoanut trees formerly out of water are now a foot deep in the sea. Every village along the coast of Kau and part of Puna has been swept away. The whole population of Waiohinu I found encamped on a high hill to the east among the ferns. From two to three hundred people had lived there for two weeks under the scanty shelter of huts made of mats, fern and ki-leaves, and could not find it in their hearts to return to their houses and fields. Their crops, which before had already suffered from long continued drought, were being invaded by the cattle, no fences remaining to protect them. It is much to be feared that the calamity of a famine will visit the smitten district in addition to the disasters suffered already.

Of the damage done to the village of Waiohinu other witnesses have given ample information. The hill forming the west side of the amphitheatre on which the village is located, has experienced a considerable land-slide. Less than five minutes walk from Waiohinu a crack of eight feet in width has dislocated the Kona road to the extent of its width. This fissure has a direction nearly South to North, tending towards the summit of Mauna Loa. It is filled up with stones disgorged from it during the movement; the dislocation seems to be owing to a folding or kinking of the land on one side, for the fissure does not extend very far in either direction.

Kahuku.—Here the lava burst forth, April 7th, through an enormous fissure of nearly three miles in length, and ran in a few hours over a distance of twelve miles, from a height of 3,800 feet,—the highest point of the fissure,—to the sea, in which it caused a projection of more than half a mile.  The upper portion of the stream is continuous; in its middle course, where it runs over the flat land, dotted with small hills, around and below the site of Capt. Brown’s former residence, it divides itself into several branches which leave a number of islands between them, and either unite again in the great pahoehoe stream which ran down to the sea, or end abruptly mostly as aa. On following the old Kona road the traveller is obliged, first to pass around the tail end of an aa stream, then to cross two aa streams, and at last the pahoehoe. From a prominent hill near Capt. Brown’s house the scene can be best surveyed. On the islands between the several streams, many cattle and horses found refuge, most of which were saved after the cessation of the flow. On the hill stands a house which contained three poor sick men. When they became aware of the approach of the lava they attempted to escape, but not having strength enough left they returned to their house expecting death. The lava however only surrounded them, and as there were some provisions and water in the house, they kept themselves alive until it cooled and succor was afforded them. The eruption must have ceased either on Saturday or Sunday night, the 11th or 12th of April. The accounts do not agree. About the exact time of the outbreak also there is some obscurity. The great fissure having been formed, in all probability, on April 2nd, the final breaking through of the lava seems to have began almost without noise. Capt. Brown only became aware of it by the sight of fire approaching toward his house, after darkness had set in, and then he hardly had time to save himself and family, the lava rushing down the last gulch  ten minutes after he and his family had crossed it. From Mr. Whitney, who approached the stream from the Kona side, I learn that a goatherd assured him that he had been prevented from returning to Waiohinu as early as the morning of April 7th, by the lava flow.

As the principal interest was the discovery of the main source of the stream, we at once went to that part of it, where, according to common report, the lava had issued. A very light dark brown glistening pumice stone lay scattered about long before the lava was seen. Near the flow it increased so much that the animals feet sank deep into it at every step. We soon reached the ride of a hill from which we surveyed the place where according to our guide’s account, the fountain of lava had been seen. This upper portion of the lava stream fills a broad valley or depression, between two parallel low hills of not more than 300 feet high, both running almost due North and South. From the western one of these hills Mr. Whitney had witnessed the eruption. From the eastern hill we in vain looked for a crater or cone. We did not make out any indication of the character of the eruption until we had crossed nearly three-fourths of the stream, which here is not far from a mile wide. Then our attention was attracted by an accumulation of scoria. Nearing this we were struck by a current of hot ari, and, a little further on, found ourselves on the brink of a deep gap in the lava about 20 feet wide, but narrowing and continuing itself Northward. We walked round the Southern end of the gap and followed it up on the West or lee side. Before long we came to another enlargement of the fissure like the former, emitting hot air charged with acid gases which drove us back.Still continuing our march on the west side of the fissure as close as the hot gases would allow, we came in sight of a pretty miniature cone, built up most regularly of loose scoria to the height of 12 feet, and located right over the fissure. It encloses a chimney crater of about 12 feet diameter, with perpendicular sides, the depth of which could not be ascertained. Hot gases issued in abundance. On account of the exhalation of the latter we were obliged to cross the chasm, on the bridge formed by the cone, to the windward side, along which we followed up steadily.

This crack or fissure tends South six degrees West to North six degrees East, and is in the slope of the hill that forms the West boundary of the lava stream. Its lava cover therefore is quite thin in many places, so that you can see how it sinks in the original rock of the hill. Its depth cannot be ascertained anywhere. More than four-fifths of the lava is on its Eastern side, as it followed the declivity of the hill-slope to fill the trough of the valley, where it assumed a general downward course. It is from the entire length of this fissure that that the lava has welled up simultaneously. The waves of lava for some distance from it are all parallel to its course, while in the middle of the stream they stand at a right angle to it. The edges are somewhat raised above the remainder of the stream, and scoria covers it in most parts, forming quite heavy layers where the stream has blowholes. Isolated flakes of brittle lava,, resembling cow dung, probably blown out at the end of the eruption with fitful spouting of steam and gas, are seen all along its course. Nearing the upper end of the valley, where I expected to find the end of the fissures, I was surprised at the sudden appearance of a veritable cataract of lava coming down the precipitous side of the eastern hill, a height of at least 300 feet. Having ascended it with considerable toil, I found myself again alongside the big crevasse which in passing across the valley had deflected from its former course to a nearly N. E. direction, heading direct for the summit of Mauna Loa.

From here onward, the incline increasing considerably, the lava commenced to be very rugged and broken. As here it had passed over and destroyed a dense forest, a number of grotesque shapes met the eye. Wherever the lava had met a tree of some size, it hadd surrounded it with a perfect mould which either still held the smouldering remains of the trunk or exhibited hollow cylinders bearing on the inside the markings of the bark of the tree. The leaf stalk even of fern trees were almost perfect. A few of the moulds contained still, entire trunks with the unconsumed branches. In the bifurications of these heavy masses of lava had accumulated hanging down in many points like so many stalactites. where-ever there was a fern stump standing upright it bore a cap of lava—all indications prove that the liquid mass had torn upwards, with the violent pressure of steam and gas. As I said before, this part of the flow was lined by a dense forest. From this point it became apparent that the gap in the forest had clsed in, and from an eminence alongside the fissure I could see that the lava stream contracted at some distance beyond to the apex of an isocoles triangle. This part of the crevasse which ran straight up to the apex was continuous, wider than below, and emitted in great profusion sulphurous and other acid gases. Its border, which was of the color of red brick, commenced to be covered with the efflorescence of salts and sulphur, and in places they assumed altogether the appearance of sulphur banks. The heat of the lava increased so as to be unbearable in some places. Ashes and scoria covered every hollow in the floor, and the edge of the woods for some distance.

Having arrived at the apex of the triangle, I found that the crevasse, over which the trees almost closed from both sides, still extended a few hundred yards higher up in the woods, indicated by a continuous line of white and yellow smoke. The choking nature of the latter forbade my marching along the edge of the fissure, while the impenetrable thicket, with the ground thickly covered by ashes, proved an effectual bar to my further progress. In fact, while hurrying out of an overpowering cloud of the smoke, I got one leg caught in a lateral fissure hidden under the ashes, where it received such a lively impression of heat that I made quick time to retire from that neighborhood. Just then I heard a deep, hollow, rumbling, prolonged sound, while the air and earth remained perfectly still. Subsequently I learned that it had been caused by the rolling down of large masses of pumice stone from the hill to the lower lava stream, but at the time being fearful of another catastrophe, I hurried back as fast as circumstances would permit, and felt a great relief in rejoining my friends who had remained behind, at the lower part of the stream. From the height above the cataract I saw two other lines of smoke running through the woods, taking their origin from the lava valley below, indicating two other fissures. Thus it appears that at the head of the valley the main fissure divided itself into three parts: the first, and larges, running northeast; the middle one almost due north, and the third about north-northwest. the two latter did not seem to have thrown off much lava, if any, for there appeared no gap in the woods along their courses.

A few general remarks and important deductions from the facts related, want of time prevents me from communicating to you at present. I reserve them for next week.

William Hillebrand.

Honolulu, May 4, 1868.

P. S.—Mons. Beranger has taken fine sketches of all the important localities visited by us, which will aid greatly the proper understanding of the hasty description given by me.

(Hawaiian Gazette, 5/6/1868, p. 2)


Hawaiian Gazette, Volume IV, Number 16, Page 2. May 6, 1868.

1 thought on “Eruption 150 years ago, 1868.

  1. This was the largest earthquake in the Hawaiian Islands in recorded history. A repeat of this event would be catastrophic today, yet we know that it definitely will happen again someday.

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