“Astonishment and awe for some moments rendered us mute, and like statues, we stood fixed to the spot, with our eyes riveted on the abyss below. Immediately before us yawned an immense gulf, in the form of a crescent, about two miles in length, from north-east to south-west, nearly a mile in width, and apparently eight-hundred feet deep.” “Sometimes I have seen what is called Halemaʻumaʻu, or South Lake, enlarged to a circuit of three miles, and raging as if filled with infernal demons”. (Halemaʻumaʻu is lit., fern house.)
According to Hawaiian oral tradition, the Kīlauea caldera formed during an epic battle between Pele, the Hawaiian volcano deity, and her younger sister, Hiʻiakaikapoliopele (Hiʻiaka.) Geologic evidence suggests that the modern caldera of Kīlauea formed shortly before 1500 AD. Repeated small collapses may have affected parts of the caldera floor, possibly as late as 1790. Keonehelelei is the name given by Hawaiians to the explosive eruption of Kilauea in 1790. It is probably so named “the falling sands” because the eruption involved an explosion of hot gas, ash and sand that rained down across the Kaʻū Desert.