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Lava Whale

Lava Whale

I love this photo, taken as the lava formed the shape of a whale. Most parts of this flow were fairly slowly, molasses-speed, but the temperature changes at the surface caused brightness changes as well, so a photo taken shortly before or after this one might suggest another shape entirely. In fact, this shot was taken shortly before the whale appeared, and I'm pretty sure this relative trickle preceeded them both.

Notice the flames in background at upper right, and the smaller tongue of flame above the whale's head? They're actually not fires fluttering upward, but lava oozing downward. This scene looks different in every photo, but no single photo shows the slow pace and constant evolution of the landscape in motion. I wish I could say that I spotted the whale shape and fired off a quick shot, but in fact I took dozens and dozens of shots over the several hours we were there in the hopes of getting just a few that evoked the reality. Despite the illusions of this photograph, or perhaps because of them, I find that it snaps the sensation of being there back into my mind. I hope that it has some of the same effect on others.

Taken in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on March 7, 2003.


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