“The inner lake, while we stood there, formed a sort of crater within itself; the whole lava sea rose about three feet; a blowing cone about eight feet high was formed; it was never the same two minutes together. And what we saw had no existence a month before, and probably will be changed in every essential feature a month from hence. The prominent object was fire in motion; but the surface of the double lake was continually skimming over for a second or two with a cool crust of lustrous grey-white, like frost-silver, broken by jagged cracks of a bright rose-color. The movement was nearly always from the sides to the centre; but the movement of the centre itself appeared independent, and always took a southerly direction. Before each outburst of agitation there was much hissing and throbbing, with internal roaring as of imprisoned gases. Now it seemed furious, demoniacal, as if no power on earth could bind it, then playful and sportive; then for a second languid, but only because it was accumulating fresh force. Sometimes the whole lake took the form of mighty waves, and, surging heavily against the partial barrier with a sound like the Pacific surf, lashed, tore, covered it, and threw itself over it in clots of living fire. It was all confusion, commotion, forces, terror, glory, majesty, mystery, and even beauty. And the color, ‘eye hath not seen’ it! Molten metal hath not that crimson gleam, nor blood that living light.”
To this description we may add that of Mr. Ellis, a former missionary to these islands, and one of the number who have descended to the shores of Kilauea’s abyss of fire. He says, after describing his difficult descent and progress over the lava-strewn pit:
“Immediately before us yawned an immense gulf, in the form of a crescent, about two miles in length, from northeast to southwest; nearly a mile in width, and apparently 800 feet deep. The bottom was covered with lava, and the southwestern and northern parts of it were one vast flood of burning matter in a state of terrific ebullition, rolling to and fro its ‘fiery surges’ and flaming billows. Fifty-one conical islands, of varied form and size, containing as many craters, rose either round the edge or from the surface of the burning lake; twenty-two constantly emitted columns of gray smoke or pyramids of brilliant flame, and several of these at the same time vomited from their ignited mouths streams of lava, which rolled in blazing torrents down their black indented sides into the boiling mass below.