Production Journal: Nov. 7, 1994

Some of the technical challenges of the program involve the fact that we are down on a lava field miles from any power or phones, and we do not have line of sight to anything because there is a pali, or ridge, just uphill of the site. We will be taking the signal from Mauna Kea by videophone, which will not be a pretty picture, but should serve. We will receive that signal in our control room through a satellite phone connection. The engineers say it will work; I am not aware of anyone having tried it before. Other signals from outlying parts of the site, such as Pu'u O'o, will be retransmitted by microwave repeaters. Other cameras will be hardwired, and there is some concern about cables chafing on the volcanic broken-glass-like surface of the ground.

Boots wear out fast on lava. It is not the heat, (which can certainly do a number on them if you get dangerously close to the vents but you can pretty much avoid them by being careful) but the sheer abrasion of the rocky surface. The rock is sharp and brittle, crunching underfoot like walking over cornflakes, and it wears away shoe leather like coarse sandpaper with every step. Then there are the cutting edges where a harder piece of lava has broken off, leaving a knife-like blade sticking up. And it is all fairly monochromatically black, so you have few cues to watch for in picking your way across the field. Sometimes the surface crumbles and you drop ankle-deep to firmer footing--that means you stepped on a thin bubble that hardened just before it broke. That can leave a nasty scrape or worse on your calf. But that kind of hazard has a beneficial consequence. I feel like a vandal walking across a field, leaving a footprint here or there. I imagine a few hundred visitors trashing the surface, leaving it pulverized as a gravel driveway, just from footfalls. We are just lucky the terrain is difficult enough, the spaces large enough, that few people venture out to these pristine places. We also can be thankful that Pele will probably make more before the lava fields we see now are used up.

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