LIV­ING WITH LAVA

Lei - - Love - TEXT BY John Vavricka

A his­tory and ge­ol­ogy of the Big Is­land.

The Hawai­ian Is­land ar­chi­pel­ago has been form­ing for over 80 mil­lion years. A volcanic hot spot deep below the sur­face of the warm Pa­cific Ocean sup­plies seem­ingly un­lim­ited raw ma­te­rial for is­land build­ing. This hot spot is fixed, but the is­lands them­selves glide along on the Pa­cific Plate, one of the largest of Earth’s many tec­tonic plates. As this plate moves, the is­lands also move grad­u­ally far­ther and far­ther away from the source of their cre­ation. Of the eight ma­jor Hawai­ian Is­lands, Kaua‘i is the old­est, formed some 5 mil­lion years ago; Big Is­land is the youngest, and clos­est to the hot spot. In fact, the land­mass we call the Big Is­land is made up of five vol­ca­noes, and two of them are still con­sid­ered ac­tive: Mauna Loa, which last erupted in 1984, and Ki­lauea, which has been ac­tively erupt­ing since 1983.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR REAL ES­TATE ON THE BIG IS­LAND?

It means that real es­tate here can be at risk of volcanic ac­tiv­ity. Be­cause the form­ing of the is­lands hap­pens on a timescale much longer than we’re used to con­sid­er­ing (hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, of years can pass be­tween erup­tions), the Big Is­land has been mapped into nine lava flow haz­ard zones. Zone 1 is the most likely to be af­fected by fu­ture volcanic ac­tiv­ity, while Zone 9 is least likely.

Big Is­land land prices re­flect this risk of volcanic ac­tiv­ity. As of April 2015, Mul­ti­ple List­ing Ser­vice in­cluded 866 list­ings for land un­der $25,000. The vast ma­jor­ity of th­ese list­ings are in lava zones one to four. While houses can be per­mit­ted and built in any zone, the avail­abil­ity of in­sur­ance and fi­nanc­ing can be lim­ited in the higher-risk lava zones, es­pe­cially in zones one and two. Check with a lo­cal real es­tate agent for de­tails on in­sur­ance and fi­nanc­ing op­tions.

As you ex­plore Big Is­land real es­tate, you’ll likely dis­cover many beau­ti­ful lots and homes in lava zones one to four. Life abounds here, where lava has met the sea and cre­ated new land. As na­tive plants slowly be­gin to take root in the new rock and soil, and birds start their reg­u­lar vis­its, there is some­thing about the essence of th­ese ar­eas that is in­spir­ing and fresh. Per­haps some day lava will come again, but in the mean­time, th­ese are in­cred­i­ble ar­eas to live in, at least for a while.

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