Rocky Geewizologist wakes up at 6 a.m. to catch the sunrise and see if there has been any more activity from his neighbor, Kilauea. The Kilauea Volcano is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. A pretty quiet neighbor most of the time, even if it does sometimes party on the weekends.
Rocky was able to find a sweet deal on a condo next to the base. Volcondo life is pretty exciting, especially for a geologist. His small garden is planted around lava rock; the condo is built just high enough away from the lava flow, and it makes for a great conversation point during neighborhood picnics. In fact, his neighbor Bob roasts hotdogs over the lava flow.
In 2008, Rocky and his neighbors got quite the surprise at one of their neighborhood barbecues. One of the crater floors dropped on Kilauea, which caused the volcano to spew lava 65 feet into the air. As amazing as the scene was to witness, the dogs in the neighborhood would not stop barking.
Rocky makes a stop at Lava Java before heading over to work. He has worked at The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory for over five years. The observatory was built on the north rim of the Kilauea caldera in 1912. Actually, the observatory has had to move back a couple times to keep a safe distance from the lava flow.
“Hello Helen,” Rocky says as he walks into the office, trying (and failing) to turn on the charm. “How’s Kilauea doing?” He leans against her desk, as she dutifully updates the current Volcano Advisory Alerts List.
“Umm…You just unplugged my computer with your elbow. It’s the same as yesterday. Alert Level Orange with surface flows that appear to be less active on the coastal plain. Hey, can’t you see this from your condo?”
There are four levels of alerts: Green for normal, yellow for advisory, orange for watch and red for warning. If you ever see a purple alert, RUN.
“Yes, but it’s not as interesting as it is coming from you,” Rocky loses his balance, slides off the counter and falls to the floor. He jumps up like nothing happened and hurries into his office.
“I’m really blowing it today,” he thinks.
He looks out his window at Kilauea, “You really blew it a couple of years ago, huh.” Rocky is referring to when Kilauea released a two-block-wide swath of lava that burned abandoned houses near its base.
He checks his watch. It’s time for him to take the volunteers (or volcano-teers as Rocky calls them, much to their chagrin) up to the volcano. Volunteers help the observatory collect data, build instruments for experiments, monitor earthquakes, take photographs, conduct surveys and work on research projects.
Rocky needs to replace a webcam that fell victim to an angry eagle. Maybe the eagle thought the webcam was too intrusive. The observatory has fourteen plus webcams set up to record 24/7. A few of them record heat, which allows the geologists to get better views through volcanic gas. Some of the cameras stream through the observatory’s website. They offer the public unique views from areas that are off-limits to most visitors.
With some help from the volcano-teers, Rocky is able to replace the webcam. He also shows the volunteers the locations of the real-time deformation-monitoring network, which consists of five different borehole tiltmeters. A borehole tiltmeter is a long, skinny sensor that is placed or buried in the ground. It measures tectonic ground and volcanic movement. The more movement, the more likely magma is building up under the surface. And the more likely you should cancel your softball practice.
Rocky looks at some of the aerial photos of the lava flow. He and the other geologists at the observatory use photos and GPS mapping aids to track the flow. It helps them warn the public if Kilauea decides to take out a neighborhood. Furthermore, geologists use lava descriptions, photo archives, and video images to predict future eruptions. It also helps them forecast the formation of new land. Rocky can never get over the fact that he watches new land being formed everyday.
He grabs a sandwich and tries to talk Helen into having lunch with him. She grudgingly gives in. She can only fight his advances for so long. In an effort to win her love, Rocky chats with her about the radial pattern outward movement on the volcano that he recently found and the new K&E Rangermaster III the geology department acquired. She looks bored.
“Thanks for a nice lunch,” Rocky says, feeling dejected. Suddenly, the earth shakes under their feet and Helen falls conveniently into Rocky’s arms.
He takes it as a sign and plants one on her. (He was too busy taking photos of the volcano from a helicopter the day they held the sexual harassment seminar.)
“You’re a dork Rocky, but I like your fiery passion,” Helen says, pleasantly surprised.
“I learned from the best,” he says, pointing to Kilauea.