The world’s largest volcano, the Mauna Loa in Hawaii, started erupting on November 27, 2022. The eruption continued for almost two weeks and ended on December 9. As a result, what was usually a slow period for Hawaiian businesses ended up busier than expected.
People from all over flocked to the big island to see the Mauna Loa volcano’s action.
Instead of deterring them away, the volcano’s red rush of lava caused an influx of tourists, a concept known as volcano tourism. Volcano tourism has been increasing in popularity over the last decade, especially in places like Hawaii, where eruptions tend to be less violent.
Continue reading to learn more about the big Hawaii Eruption 2022, volcano tourism, and how to stay safe when traveling to an area with high volcanic activity.
Hawaii Volcano Eruption
According to this article, the Mauna Loa volcano has erupted 34 times since 1843, with the last eruption in 1984. This past inactive period was the volcano’s longest quiet period. Nevertheless, because of its high activity, scientists have collected a lot of data about it and suspected an eruption would happen soon.
In addition to the Mauna Loa eruption, a smaller neighboring volcano, the Kilauea, was erupting at the same time. The Kilauea has been erupting almost constantly for the last year. Though, its eruption also ceased around the same time as the Mauna Loa.
Scientists are now investigating where there is a link between the eruptions in neighboring volcanoes. Many tourists who came to see the eruption of Mauna Loa weren’t even aware of the smaller one happening just next door.
What is Volcano Tourism?
Volcano tourism is when visitors see and observe active or inactive volcanoes. These “lava chasers” can be people who are interested in geothermal activity or those who just want an epic selfie.
Hawaii has a national park, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, that lets tourists see the volcanoes. But, of course, they restrict access to the threatened area when there is an eruption or an anticipated one.
Volcano tourism is not a new concept. It’s trendy in places like Hawaii and Iceland, where the volcanoes tend to erupt more slowly and quietly.
There are many debates over whether this type of tourism is safe. Incidents can happen and have happened in the past, like in 2019 in New Zealand when a volcano suddenly erupted and killed 22 people.
While there is always some safety risk, volcano tourism produces many economic benefits. For example, according to this article by nps.gov, the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park created $94.1 million in economic benefits from visits in 2018 from its 1.1 million visitors that year.
If you’re keen on volcano tourism, review the best safety practices we’ll outline in the following section before heading to an area with volcanic activity.
How To Stay Safe In Areas With Volcanic Activity
Whether you live in or are traveling to an area that could experience volcano eruptions, there are a few practices to keep in mind.
- Always listen for evacuation updates - volcano warnings are issued as probabilities (for example, there’s a 50% chance of eruption within the next week). Please don’t wait until it’s too late to evacuate.
- Keep your Grab + Go Box on hand - this will tell you exactly what to do if there’s an awakening volcano, an active eruption happening, or after the event. It will help you stay calm.
- Keep an N95 dust mask and goggles with you - vog (volcanic smog) and particles from an eruption can be dangerous to your health. Have the proper PPE with you at all times.
- Never pass closure signs - these signs are there for a reason. Obey all signage on and around a volcano.
- Stay away from lava and ash falls - if a volcano erupts, stay as far away as possible and stay indoors, or just seek immediate cover wherever possible (including nearby bodies of water).
- Know what type of volcano you are visiting - volcanoes with thin lava tend to flow slower, while thick lava can cause explosions. Know the kind of volcano you’ll be visiting and understand the risks.
- Stay alert - if you ever feel unsafe at any moment, leave. Trust your instincts!
Terra Frma strongly recommends staying away from active volcanoes and urges you to make a timely evacuation. Always listen to local officials and use your best judgment.