Sunday, November 20, 2005

Explosive stories

Visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are being told to resist the temptation to gather volcanic rocks into neat, little stacks.

Piles of rocks along trails, at overlooks and on lava lakes at the Big Island park are a concern to scientists, who say displacing rocks makes research at the sites more difficult.

But Pele Hanoa, 82, compared the practice to sacrilege, since the national park contains many sites considered sacred to Hawaiians.


"We don't want those rock pilings put up all over the place," Hanoa said. "That's desecration of our culture."

It's unclear where the rock-stacking practice originated, but the piles of three or more stones are popular in the islands and can be seen bordering roads, in valleys and other scenic sites.

Rangers say the rock piles alter the park's natural setting and violate federal law. They warn that those who insist on stacking rocks could be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Some 2.5 million people visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park each year. Most rock stacks are at Halemaumau Crater, the southwest rift zone's 1971 flow and the 1982 lava flow, officials said.
A study on the location of specific types of rocks blasted out of Kilauea gave clues that the volcano had a long history of explosive eruptions, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which runs the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory within the national park.

The study noted that "the construction of rock piles erases geologic history."

The park plans to post signs and hand out fliers to educate visitors and tour operators about the problem.

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