Kilauea, a volcano in the E. part of the island of Hawaii, in lat. 19° 25' N., lon. 155° 20' W. It is a pit or sunken plain 8 m. in circumference, bounded by steep or perpendicular walls, and varying from 800 to 1,500 ft. in depth as the floor of the crater is raised or lowered by volcanic action; eruptions drawing off the accumulated lavas from beneath and causing it to sink. Near the S. W. extremity of the pit is a lake of melted lava in a state of constant ebullition, called by the Hawaiians the Hale-mau-mau, or "house of everlasting fire," and formerly regarded as the residence of their principal divinity, the goddess Pele. From this caldron, which is not infrequently a third or a half mile in diameter, the fusion overflows in times of special volcanic activity, spreading out upon the cooled lava which forms the bottom of the crater; or it bursts out at* new points of this nearly level tract. The crater presents in consequence quite different appearances at different times, being especially changed by the occurrence of eruptions. These are generally preceded by a rise in the floor of the crater.
When the lateral pressure of the accumulating lava becomes sufficiently great, it forces its way through the side of the mountain, often accompanied by violent earthquakes, and breaks to the surface at a distance of 5, 10, or 20 m. from the great crater, which is usually emptied to a depth of 400 ft. The lava continues to flow seaward incessantly for several days, weeks, or months. These eruptions are generally independent of those which take place from the crater upon the summit of Manna Loa, 10,000 ft. higher than Kilauea, though the two craters are but 16 m. distant from each other. The lavas are very fluid, and contain much iron and augite. The greatest recorded eruption of Kilauea took place in June, 1840. The lava forced its way for 27 m. mostly underground, marking its course by rending the rocks above it, and sometimes splitting the trunks of large trees so as to leave them standing astride of the crevices. The lava stream showed itself occasionally upon the surface of the ground, or in the pits of old craters; and finally it broke from the ground in a resistless flood, at the distance of 12 m. from the coast, and rolled shoreward, sweeping forests, hamlets, and plantations before it, until, leaping a precipice of 40 or 50 ft., it plunged with loud detonations into the sea.
Its entire course was 40 m. in length; its depth, owing to the extreme roughness of the country over which it flowed, varied from 12 to 200 ft., and its width from 500 ft. to 3 m. The flow continued for three weeks, and for a fortnight the light of it was so brilliant that at Hilo, 40 m. distant, fine print could be read at midnight. The coast was extended into the sea a quarter of a mile; hills of scoria and sand were formed, one 300 ft. high; the sea was heated for 20 m. along the coast, and multitudes of fishes were killed. This eruption poured out 15,400,-000,000 cubic feet of lava, which is probably about the average amount of the eruptions of Kilauea. Eruptions occurred in 1789, 1823, 1832,1840, and 1866. The crater is not difficult of access, and is generally visited from Hilo.