Lava Covers the Little Free Library

Red Road Press established a Little Free Library (LFL) in July, 2017 on our rural property adjacent to Noni Farm Road at Kapoho Road in Pahoa, Hawai’i.  There is a public library in the town of Pahoa but that is quite a distance to walk or cycle, the usual transportation for many residents of beautiful agricultural South Puna district where public transportation is scarce. 

2017 Little Free Library start up  The LFL was an instant attraction for the many families who lived along the cinder road.  Young residents who stopped to browse and select a book.  Donated books came from neighbors and retired teachers, as well as my own shelves.  The LFL also served the many agricultural workers who travel the rural cinder and gravel lanes to the noni or papaya fields far from the highway.

Lava flow of 2014 stopped at Pahoa Recycling Center. © L. Peat  O’Neil 2014

Little FL client

The Island of Hawai’i has experienced many lava eruptions. South Puna is in the East Rift Zone of Kilauea Volcano.  In the immediate area, there were flows in 1955 and 1960.  Kalapana, a long established town on the South shore, was obliterated during several catastrophic lava flows in the 1980s and 90s. A thin, slow moving lava flow nearly reached the west side of Pahoa village during 2014.

Subsequent Kilauea lava streams violently arched into the ocean from the cliffs south of Volcanoes National Park, earning the headline “Fire Hose Lava”

Little FL supporter

Then in May, 2018 there were two violent earthquakes and thousands of small quakes concentrated in the Leilani Estates area south of Pahoa.  Lava fissures or volcanic vents threatened the security of thousands of residents. One week the lava was concentrated in a southward direction; the next week, the lava force opened many new fissures spaced far apart. In all,  24 fissures opened in the Leilani Estates neighborhood to issue steam, sulphuric gasses and  lava from Kilauea Volcano to the surface. 2018 August 14_East Rift Zone Lava

Fissure 8 steadily grew a massive cone of lava sending rivers of fast moving lava on the fastest path to the ocean. Fissure 22 burst open, sending several fingers of lava across pastures, crop fields, forests and parts of Route 132. Lava consumed Kapoho and Vacationland, several public recreation areas, filling Green Mt. Lake and Kapoho Bay.

I evacuated during the last week of May.  Friends phoned to warn that lava was headed down Noni Farm Road and tried to move my truck and other equipment to higher ground.  Overnight lava covered the pastures and orchard, burning the barn, stables and all other outbuildings, including the Little Free Library which stood on the edge of out property facing Noni Farm Road.

Lava Mass over Little Free Library Pahoa
Lava flow of 2018 covered Noni Farm Road and the Little Free Library. © L. Peat O’Neil 2018

You can see on the lava flow maps for the Kilauea lava disaster that the LFL is covered.  Perhaps someday, the local government will repair and replace the public roads and provide access to area residents whose property and houses survived the lava inundation.

Then Red Road Press will set up a new Little Free Library for all of the survivors living in the area. 


Start up

The photo is atop the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve where I’ve been a volunteer planting Mamame tree seedlings to restore the mountain habitats.  The Red Road is miles from Mauna Kea and more than 6,500 feet below it. Red Road is the route from the family farm near Kapoho, obliterated by lava in 1960, around the southern coast to Kalapana, Hawai’i. The island is familiarly called the Big Island by those who don’t know its proper name is Hawai’i.

Uncle Roberts’ place is in Kalapana — more about Uncle Roberts’ in a future blog post. Nearly thirty years ago Kalapana town was wiped away by ongoing lava flows that eventually hit the National Park’s visitor facility at the southern end of Chain of Craters Road.

In 2014, another lava flow emerged north of Kalapana and it flowed eastward for about half a year, headed for Pahoa, then the lava subsided. Some months later, a flow from the same pu’u (a modest sized volcanic hill) emerged but this time it flowed south to a spectacular exit on the southern coast about 6 miles west of former Kalapana. Anyone who owned a boat was ferrying tourists eager to see the flow steam into the Pacific.

On New Year’s 2017, that spectacular flow became what the television media described as a “fire hose” of lava. Many acres of earlier (hardened) lava flow collapsed into the ocean in early February 2017. Viewers were warned to leave by the dedicated vulcanologists at the HVO and no one was hurt.

The Red Road was made of red cinder pavement – crushed lava – and meandered across and through old lava plains on the southern coast to Kalapana, the last outpost near the current active lava flow. The Red Road was paved over with standard blue-black asphalt in 2013, according to Hawaii Magazine but it remains a single lane road with curves, dips, and swerves.

It can be a dangerous road during the tourist season because you just can’t be in a hurry on the Red Road and the sinuous hilly roadway makes every curve a blind curve. I’ve witnessed a big rental SUV nearly strike a pedestrian, driven by someone who didn’t understand Aloha driving style.