Helm Helicopter Ride Over A Volcano

Helicopter ride over a volcano Helicopter ride over a volcano, Hawaii.

We are aboard the 'Pride of America' cruising Hawaii and today we are going to fly over the active volcano, Kilauea! We pre-booked this shore excursion on-line via the NCL website because we heard that it's very popular and we didn't want to miss out. This particular excursion includes a picnic by a remote waterfall, it all sounds so exiting.

As usual we disembark and a coach is waiting to whisk us away to the heliport. When we arrive we are taken to the 'briefing room' and given an overview of the days events and safety instructions including how to use our headsets. Next we are individually asked to step on the scales and our weights are recorded. Apparently they need to know the weight distribution on each flight so we don't crash! Sounds pretty important to me.

Helicopter joy flight Hawaii Getting ready to board the helicopter.

We are divided up into groups of 6 and head outside to where the helicopters are waiting. We have strict instructions of where we can walk and must stay between the lines clearly marked on the concrete. We are signalled to come forward and climb on board. I have never been in a helicopter before and am a bit anxious so I am pleased I get to sit opposite Darren who gives me a reassuring smile.

I must say Darren and I were lucky that we both had window seats as 6 people were in our helicopter. So if you were in the middle I don't think the view would have been as good. Might be a thought if you decide to book make sure you can get a window seat.

I put on my headphones and the pilot does a roll call to check that we can all hear him. I am so busy trying to get it right I do not answer him and Darren has to let him know that I can hear him. I forgot to push the 'talk' button.

Karen in helicopter, Hawaii My first time in a helicopter.

We're now ready to take-off, the noise of the engine increases and the whirling of the blades vibrates through my seat. We take off so effortlessly and before I know it my fears are gone and just the wonderment of hovering through the air fills my thoughts.

Only from the air can you comprehend the scale of how much lava has flowed from Kilauea. As we reach the edge of the solidified flow from past eruptions the contrast between the lush green forests and the lifeless lava fields is harsh.

Lava encroaching on the forest Lava encroaching into the forest.

From the air we could see a house surrounded by a sea of solidified lava. The pilot told us that a man still lived down there and that the lava flow had missed his house three times. After each eruption he returned expecting to see nothing but lava where his home once stood but miraculously the flow had gone around his house, it was the only building that survived in the whole block.

All the pilots chatted over the radio telling each other where the best flows can be seen, as one helicopter flew off to survey another sight our helicopter would fly in so we'd get a closer look and take photographs.

Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii. Those tiny white dots are people! Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.

On thee rim of the caldera we could see little white dots. The pilot explained they were people, probably from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Kilauea’s eruptions are of a non-explosive nature allowing scientists to study on-going eruptions in close proximity without being in extreme danger. Around 1970 there was an eruption with fountains of lava bursting in to the air up to 540 meters (1772 ft) high! Nope! I feel vulnerable enough in a helicopter there's no way you'd get me on the rim.

River of lava - Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii. This river of lava is as wide as a 2 lane highway.

Our pilot would make a pass on the left then change direction so the people on the right could also get a view. A helicopter does not fly anything like a plane! To change direction there's no gradual turn, basically while travelling forward the pilot pulls up the nose of the aircraft and banks left or right at which point it feels like you're free falling as the helicopter swivels in the air and straightens up and now flies in the opposite direction.

Coast line, Volcanoes Nation Park, Hawaii. Coast line, Volcanoes Nation Park, Hawaii.

Lava from Kilauea has created 2 'rift zones', one leading out to the south-west 35 km (22 mi) the other leading a staggering 125 km (78 mi) out to the east. Our pilot flew along the coast looking for plumes of steam created by the lava flowing into the sea. Unfortunately we didn't see any, but it was still a formidable sight see the desolation a volcano can cause to the surrounding landscape.

Pride of America, Hawaii. Helicopter view of the 'Pride of America'.

Our pilot was most accommodating, after hearing we were from the cruise-ship 'Pride of America' he flew out over the harbour so we could take photographs of the ship at anchor. Our day didn't end here, we still had a flight to a remote waterfall for a swim and a picnic - but that's a story for another blog post.

By Karen McGlade

 

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Karen

Hello, my name is Karen and I'm a cruise-a-holic. I'm married to my wonderful husband Darren and we have 3 gorgeous kids, (not that I'm biased by any stretch of the imagination).

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