Lava Boat Adventure on the Big Island of Hawai’i

In the summer of 2012 Michael Hengler moved to the Big Island of Hawaii to conduct research for his thesis project that consisted of him traversing the lava fields, launching lava boats into the molten rivers, and capturing it on video. Prior to moving to the Big Island, he discovered the cultural belief that Pele, the volcano goddess, is embodied in the lava itself and therefore should not be used, but after months of research and meetings, Hengler received blessings and cultural permission from numerous Hawaiian Anthropologists and Hawaiian Cultural Practitioners to proceed with his project. Ironically, he also learned that a company on Hawaii harvested and sold lava cinder which would now become the medium for his lava boats. Michael constructed six one-foot boats (as seen in the above picture) which he launched into the lava rivers, one by one, on three separate trips.

The photo above is on location at Bryson Cinder on the Big Island of Hawaii.  It shows where the company extracts and crushes the cinder that they then package and sell to home improvement and garden centers as an attractive and durable ground cover.  In the photo below, you can see the view from Michael’s front porch while living in Kalapana, Hawaii.  The entire area has been decimated by the active volcano and, if you look closely, you can see the molten lava glowing in several locations.  A small community of approximately 100 off-the-grid houses have built new homes on the 50 foot thick solid volcanic rock earth.  Small shrubs and plants are starting to appear through the cracks of the black earth, but it will be centuries before it returns to it’s original lush landscape.