Reconstructing the eruptive history of Kilauea volcano from myths of the Hawaiian volcano goddess pele

Category Other
Group GSI.IR
Location International Geological Congress,oslo 2008
Author Masse, W Bruce
Holding Date 08 September 2008

The Hawaiian Islands have a richly detailed mythology surrounding the volcano goddess Pele and her abode within the caldera of Kilauea volcano. These myths were transcribed from oral sources into Hawaiian language newspapers during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The myths describe Kilauea eruptive behavior and the creation of named lava flows, usually in the context of battles between Pele and demigods or named Hawaiian chiefs.
Because Hawaiian myths, including stories about Pele, are largely embedded within the context of royal chiefly genealogies-that is specific myths are attached to the reigns of named chiefs included in the genealogies-this provides a relative chronology for the action storylines contained in the myths.
Furthermore, since historic transient celestial events such as solar eclipses, supernovae, and the passage of remarkable comets are likewise embedded in genealogically-ordered Hawaiian mythology, this situation provides remarkable chronological precision for reconstructing Kilauea eruptive history dating back to around the 6th century AD. These geological details from mythology and oral history are weighed against the chronometric geological and archaeological record, and together provide a dynamic historical perspective on the hazards and eruptive potential of Kilauea volcano.