(January 3, 1983) - Kilauea Volcano on the big Island of Hawaii erupted this morning for the first time in more than one-hundred fifty years.
Little did we know we were in for the ride of a lifetime when our friend Chad called. "Meet me at the airport," is all he said. We were still pretty tired after a twelve hour flight from Chicago to the beautiful State of Hawaii the previous day, but we were excited to begin our vacation.
Chad flew a Beechcraft Baron and whenever he invited his friends up, we were all thrilled to go along for the ride. I mean, after all . . . we're talking Hawaii! It was February. The sun was out and the suntan lotion on. We were up for anything.
We taxied from the tarmac to the runway and waited while Chad completed the pre-checks. A waft of sea breeze entered the open cabin door. I took a deep breath of air laced with the scent of plumeria, pineapple, and a hint of spent jet fuel. It seemed to thaw my frozen bones from the long, harsh Chicago winter we left behind.
"Kilauea began erupting on the Big Island last month," Chad said while we were enroute. "It's supposed to be a spectacular show. I've not seen it, yet, so I thought we'd take a ride."
It was a short flight from Honolulu's International Airport to the volcano. We began to see a blanket of scorched earth about ten miles out from the lower east rift zone. It cut a swath as far as the eye could see. Everything on the ground was either black or ash. "There it be," Chad announced quietly and nodded toward a thin stream of smoke on the horizon that curled toward heaven. A hush engulfed the cockpit.
This was not a time for chatter but one of reverence. We were experiencing a sight most people never see, the natural expansion of our world. Mother Earth in the throes of birth. Our eyes were fixated on the tiny mound of dirt that looked more like an angry zit on the face of the planet. It continued to grow larger and redder the closer we flew.
As we circled the erupting caldera the first time, cinders from the spewing lava fountain pushed higher than the plane and sent tiny, pin-head sized rock falling onto the plane's windshield with the sound of someone tapping with a fingernail, beckoning to get in. Chad pulled up and a little further out as we gently banked to view the red flow of magma pushing towards the ocean.
"Hang on! It's going to get bumpy."
I tucked my camera bag under my feet to keep it secure and held the camera and telephoto lens up to the window. I was ready, I thought. Ha! I was not! As the plane flew over the river of molten lava, we dropped like a rock chucked straight to the ground. My camera lens banged into the window and bounced back into my forehead with a thud. I kept clicking away not sure if I would have pictures of feet, cockpit, or crotch, or if I would have pictures of the magnificent cinder-and-spatter cone that would later be named Pu'u O'u.
After we safely landed, we all agreed that it was an adventure of a lifetime, and vowed we'd never do it again! That day is a day that will be etched in our memories forever, like the pit marks on the plane's windshield.
Jo Ann Glim is an award-winning author, forty-year freelance writer, and passionate photographer. She lives in Bradenton, Florida with her husband, Bill and rescued Scottish Terrier, Lucy. She's published two books, "Begotten With Love" a 2014 Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Award first-place winner for biography, and the newly published non-fiction life story "Trapped_Within." Both are available on Amazon.com.