Field Trip to Hawaii 2008
2-14 May, 2008
by Mandy Sinclair and Brian Cousens
Twenty-six Carleton undergraduate and graduate students participated in a 14-day field course to Hawaii under the direction of Professors Brian Cousens and Claire Samson. The course included visits to three Hawaiian islands: Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. They were joined part-way through the course by eight students from the University of Ottawa, led by Professor Tony Fowler, as well as four professional geologists from Canada and two spouses. This annual international field course, ERTH 4807 Field Geology II, gives graduating fourth-year students the opportunity to apply the geological skills they have learned during their program and to see rock types or specific geological environments that are not found in the Ottawa area.
Hawaii is the ideal location for studying volcanoes. There, the activity is generally not explosive, which allows us to get close to the active lava vents and flows. Because many of the flows are less than a thousand years old, they are 100% exposed and the processes involved during volcanic eruptions are easily identified.
Highlights of the trip included visits to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island to view two active eruption sites. The students also hiked through Haleakala crater on Maui to see brilliantly-coloured cinder cones close-up, and appreciate the astounding views from the top of the volcano. Another unforgettable experience was kayaking out to the reefs of southwest Maui and snorkelling with the abundant fish and turtles that inhabit the reefs.
Kilauea is the youngest of the volcanoes on the Big Island. At the time of our visit, it had been extremely active for more than a month. From the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, located on the rim of Kilauea crater, the students watched as a large plume of volcanic gas and ash was ejected into the air from a vent in the side of Halemaumau crater, located inside the volcano’s main crater. In addition, lava from the East Rift Zone was following a underground lava tube system such that lava was entering the ocean, creating a spectacular plume of steam rising from the ocean. Returning to the viewing area at night, the students were treated to a “fireworks” show as the steam blew gobs of incandescent lava into the air.
In addition to the geological stops, trips to cultural and social sites - including Pearl Harbour on Oahu, a unique pineapple winery on the slopes of Maui, a petroglyph site (petroglyphs are carvings or line drawings on rock) and the home of King Kamehameha on the Big Island - were also important components of the course.