“We ascended our rugged pathway amidst steam and smoke and heat which almost blinded and scathed us. We came to open orifices down which we looked into the fiery river which rushed madly under our feet. These fiery vents were frequent, some of them measuring ten, twenty, fifty or one hundred feet in diameter. In one place we saw the river of lava uncovered for thirty rods and rushing down a declivity of from ten to twenty-five degrees. The scene was awful, the momentum incredible, the fusion perfect (white heat), and the velocity forty miles an hour. The banks on each side of the stream were red-hot, jagged and overhanging. As we viewed it rushing out from under its ebon counterpane, and in the twinkling of an eye diving again into its fiery den, it seemed to say, ‘Stand off! Scan me not! I am God’s messenger. A work to do. Away!’”
Later he wrote again:—“The great summit fountain is still playing with fearful energy, and the devouring stream rushes madly down toward us. It is now about ten miles distant, and heading directly for our bay. In a few days we may be called to announce the painful fact that our beauteous Hilo is no more,—that our lovely, our inimitable landscape, our emerald bowers, our crescent strand and our silver bay are blotted out. A fiery sword hangs over us. A flood of burning ruin approaches us. Devouring fires are near us. With sure and solemn progress the glowing fusion advances through the dark forest and the dense jungle in our rear, cutting down ancient trees of enormous growth and sweeping away all vegetable life. For months the great summit furnace on Mauna Loa has been in awful blast. Floods of burning destruction have swept wildly and widely over the top and down the sides of the mountain. The wrathful stream has overcome every obstacle, winding its fiery way from its high source to the bases of the everlasting hills, spreading in a molten sea over the plains, penetrating the ancient forests, driving the bellowing herds, the wild goats and the affrighted birds before its lurid glare, leaving nothing but ebon blackness and smoldering ruin in its track.”
His anticipation of the burial of Hilo under the mighty flow was happily not realized. It came to an abrupt halt while seven miles distant, the checked stream standing in a threatening and rugged ridge, with rigid, beetling front.
In January, 1859, Mauna Loa was again at its fire-play, throwing up lava fountains from 800 to 1,000 feet in height. From this great fiery fountain the lava flowed down in numerous streams, spreading over a width of five or six miles. One stream, probably formed by the junction of several smaller, attained a height of from twenty to twenty-five feet, and a breadth of about an eighth of a mile. Great stones were thrown up along with the jet of lava, and the volume of seeming smoke, composed probably of fine volcanic dust, is said to have risen to the height of 10,000 feet.