Views of a Century of Activity at Kīlauea Caldera—A Visual Essay

Professional Paper 1867-B
By:  and 
Edited by: Matthew R. PatrickTim R. OrrDon Swanson, and Bruce F. Houghton



The 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano marked the end of the first sustained period of volcanic activity at Halemaʻumaʻu Crater in 94 years. The views of the lava lake (informally named “Overlook,” nestled within Halemaʻumaʻu) lasted for a decade and seemed timeless. But as we were recently reminded, the summit of Kīlauea is part of a dynamic system that has provided countless new views to observers over the centuries.

This visual essay features a few of the many scenes recorded by early observers at the volcano, from the first visits by westerners in 1823 through the explosive eruption of 1924. The early images left by casual visitors, artists, and photographers raise many questions: What is shown? Where is this? Who captured the scene and when? How accurate is the portrayal? Where possible, we attempt to answer these questions and provide interpretations of the images featured.

In 1912, the nature of observations at Kīlauea changed when Thomas A. Jaggar, Jr., and others occupied the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on a full-time basis. They began a visual and written record of what they saw, heard, and experienced that has continued to this day. We describe some of the early work of these scientists and photographers, and showcase the results.

Suggested Citation

Gaddis, B., and Kauahikaua, J., 2021, Views of a century of activity at Kīlauea Caldera—A visual essay, chap. B of Patrick, M., Orr, T., Swanson, D., and Houghton, B., eds., The 2008–2018 summit lava lake at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1867, 23 p.,

ISSN: 2330-7102 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Early Views of Kīlauea Crater
  • The Halema‘uma‘u Cluster
  • Observations by Members of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
  • The Explosive End of an Era
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Figure Commentary
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Views of a century of activity at Kīlauea Caldera—A visual essay
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 1867
Chapter B
DOI 10.3133/pp1867B
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Volcano Science Center
Description iv, 23 p.
Country United States
State Hawaii
Other Geospatial Kīlauea Caldera
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