Story transcribed by Benjamin Grimm
from an exclusive talk-story with Madame Pele
Mortals from around the world come to admire my beauty, and that’s okay … until they cross the line and get burnt.
Every year, visitors to the island of Hawaii are injured when they break rules created to keep them safe. Every so often, some humans take the last outrigger from the realm of the living to my realm of immortals long before their time. Between 1992 and 2002, 40 souls took that outrigger, and 45 more suffered serious injury.
They go off of designated roads and trails of my home, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, to suffer cuts, bruises, burns and broken bones when they tread on a thin bubble of sharp aa or smooth pahoehoe lava beds. Hey, just because I’m cool doesn’t mean you can walk all over me.
Some bypass barricades put in place to keep them safe from steam vents; others, who don’t find my waters sufficiently warm enough, take to the boiling sea to witness the awesome fury of molten rock billowing under the surface. My reaction to that usually leaves them steamed or hard boiled.
If that doesn’t foment respect, remember I produce what islanders call vog, the toxic fumes that can cause illness. The trade winds usually cause vog to drift away from Hawaii, but it can be lethal when concentrated.
Park rangers and cultural guides will warn you not to do that, just as they’ll give you fair warning not take what is mine, even a pebble, or face my wrath. Those who do eventually repent and return that which they took, and I grant them grace … but those who trespass across my fields or into my caldera are asking for a Darwin Award. I’ve been in constant eruption since January 1983.
In 1992, I burned Kapapana Village completely off the map and eight residences in nearby Kapa’ahu, both built in the red zone (lava flow danger zone.)
If I have the power to create acres of new land and devour buildings, what makes you think I won’t take action when you ignore the polyglot of warning signs and dare intrude into my fields?
I’m not saying you have to worship me. The Hawaiian people consider my realm, which includes the largest active volcano on Earth, sacred. Their worship for me, who created their islands, is enough. And I’m a powerful goddess who respects warriors so long as they respect me. In fact, military and DOD civilians are welcome to see my majesty from the safety and comfort of Kilauea Military Camp, one of a only a few lodgings actually within the 330,000 acre national park.
KMC has been around for decades and it is yours to visit. You can safely hike miles of designated trails or hike my 14,000 tall peak. You can tour lava tubes and see flora and fauna unique to my park.
I cannot say the same for those who get too close without an invitation. If you respect my privacy and follow the national park safety rules, you’ll say “Aloha” with a smile and warm memories.
However, if you dare go hiking or swimming where rangers and common sense say you shouldn’t, don’t be surprised if things get warmer than you expected.
(Editor’s note: The author intends no disrespect to those Kamaʻāina who pay homage to the ancient Hawaiian gods, and channeled Madame Pele for the sole purpose of promoting safety on her lands for military personnel stationed in the 50th state. Also, the author’s pen name was chosen due to his volcanic-looking face and physique, and doesn’t actually say things like “It’s clobberin’ time!”)