Inside and outside, Jaggar Museum sees big impacts of Kilauea eruptions

Steep walls slump inward and downward in Halemaumau crater - the deepest part is now about 1,000 feet below crater rim
Published: Jun. 12, 2018 at 9:13 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 25, 2018 at 5:20 PM HST
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A damaged overlook deck and rock wall at Jaggar Museum. (Image: NPS)
A damaged overlook deck and rock wall at Jaggar Museum. (Image: NPS)

KILAUEA VOLCANO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - The ongoing eruptions of Kilauea volcano are claiming a permanent mark in Hawaii's history books.

They've also left dramatic physical marks at Hawaii Volcano National Park's Jaggar Museum -- so much so that park officials don't know when or even if it will ever reopen.

According to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, officials say it's "very doubtful" they would ever return to the museum not only because of the damage, but also because of its close proximity to a very unstable cliff.

The once bustling center overlooking the Kilauea caldera is now empty, covered in ash, with cracks and fractures throughout.

"On the inside, there's pretty severe damage," said Jessica Ferracane, National Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman, who recently took a look inside the more than 30-year-old facility Monday.

The museum used to be the no. 1 spot in the park, which averaged 5,000 visitors daily. Now, the area has been closed indefinitely since May 11.

And it's not just the museum that has changed.

"The entire area looks like its been white-washed," said Ferracane. "Like flour."

That white dust is actually acidic volcanic ash. It's covering picnic tables, roads and overlooks.

"Jaggar Museum overlook deck has so many cracks in it now, it really looks like it's not going to be a structure that's going to be there very much longer," Ferracane said.

Besides the dust and cracks on the viewing areas, there's a more noteworthy change: The view.

"It's like night and day," Ferracane described.

For starters, there's no longer a lava lake that viewers can see from the museum's overlook area of the Kilauea caldera.

The shape of the crater has changed so significantly that it would be unrecognizable to people who are used to the sight, Ferracane said.

Cracks in roads nearby have affected mobility. At least three park buildings were damaged along with water lines. The emergency teams monitoring activity in the park are currently working without running water because of the damage.

The good news: Officials said the museum's exhibits and artifacts haven't yet been damaged.

The gift shop, however, has been affected by hundreds of daily earthquakes in the area. Ferrane said shelves, clothes and other goods have left a mess.

Once the volcano quiets down, the museum won't just be making structural changes, but also historical ones.

From maps of the volcano to outlines of the coastline, information will be adjusted based on the new events.

What the new changes will look like is still uncertain, though. And that's because history is still in the making.

"We still have future questions to answer," Ferracane said.

Meanwhile, there is no way to tell when the Kilauea section of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will open, according to officials. Even after the activity stops, time will be needed to assess damages and repair roads and buildings.

For now, Ferracane says the concentration is just getting running water to the teams out there.

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