National Geographic : 1960 Mar
day. They calculated it had already covered the crater bottom to a depth of 15 feet. Their second job was to walk across the encrusted lava pond toward the fountain to photograph and inspect the cascading lava. To me this was a daring excursion, but Eaton dismissed it lightly. The fact is that although the lava hardened rapidly, its surface tempera ture was still more than 2000 F., and a few feet below the surface it remained molten at more than 1,500° F. The crust formed like ice on a river, constantly cracking and shifting. Lava Threatens to Cut Off Retreat As Richter and Eaton prepared to walk the crusted lake, they observed that my ten nis shoes-fine for walking over cold lava would not stand the heat. I was never so grateful for improper attire. I went up the trail a way, a cautious dis tance above the puffs of vapor, and sat in shade where I could watch Eaton and Richter pick their way across the lake. As I sat, I wondered what would happen if those early 314 fountains, now directly over my head, were to come alive. What if the whole thing blew up? I could see that the surface of the lake had risen a foot in the time I had been there. What if it were to rise faster than I could climb the trail? Still, I could not leave. For one thing, I wanted to wait for a souvenir to cool-a penny Eaton and Richter had encrusted for me in a blob of molten lava. I was held also by the beauty of the fountain and its hints of how the earth was born. Most of all I had to watch those two men as they made their way over a surface where one misstep could plunge them into annihilation. It was hunger that finally drew me to my feet and the long, hard climb up the trail. That night the fountain really began to flourish, and Goodman and Wenkam came back for more pictures. This time they were better prepared, with warmer clothing, flash lights, water-and even a tin hat. Following a back road to avoid traffic and roadblocks, they drove close to the crater's edge and hiked on through the darkness. For minutes they just sat and looked. ONAL GEOGRAPHICSOCIETY Blazing Batter Explodes Above a Doomed Forest This remarkable view less than 100 yards from the volcano's throat shows mo lasseslike blobs that explode as their imprisoned gases expand, producing what one witness called "devil's pop corn." High Speed Ekta chrome, a sensitive new film, stops the lava in mid-flight and reveals patches of tran quil blue sky. Intent faces bear the mark of Kilauea Iki's hypnotic spell. Some 170,000 persons visited the volcano during the first two weeks. "They rarely spoke," says photog rapher Goodman, "and when they did, it was in cathedral tones." To veteran watchers Ki lauea Iki became "our vol cano." One man wept when the fountain seemed to die. This crowd watches from Byron Ledge Overlook, half a mile from the vent.