Kilauea continually molds Hawaii’s Big Island. Creating new land, shaping ancient forests and carving tunnels through the earth, the volcano fascinates a dedicated group of scientists and filmmakers who follow its every action. Using innovative new imaging technologies to map the magma chamber, following the lava’s heat along its journey underground, and listening to the constant noises of its movements, geologists map the shifting liquid earth as they work to understand its awesome force.
Ejecting fire, molten rock, giant boulders and poisonous gases, the volcano can be a hazard for researchers, homeowners, plants and animals, but it doesn’t just leave destruction in its wake. Twists and turns in the lava’s flow leave some patches of original ecosystems, called kipukas, undisturbed. These oases of life provide a haven to many rare creatures — including the Hawaiian state bird, the Nene — but remain in constant danger from the volcano and from invasive species. Below the surface, inactive lava tubes provide homes for many unique species of darkness-loving creatures called troglobites.
At the end of its journey, the lava meets the ocean. Braving an extremely hot sea, filmmakers record the birth of new land and the incredible phenomenon of pillow lava – a bizarre and truly magical sight to behold.
Violent and beautiful, destructive and creative, Kilauea: Mountain of Fire explores the incredible power of the volcano and the challenges of life in its shadow.
Kilauea: Mountain of Fire premieres Sunday, March 29 on PBS.