“Keep and publish careful records, invite the whole world of science to co-operate, and interest the business man.” (Jaggar, 1913)
In contemplating the formation of a volcano observatory in Hawai‘i, Thomas Jaggar enlisted support from the Chamber of Commerce and the leading citizens of Honolulu.
In 1909, subscriptions were started by personal interview through the agency of Mr. Thurston and volunteer solicitors, after a lecture on volcanoes by Professor Jaggar, delivered at the University Club of Honolulu. A generous response came from a number of organizations and individuals.
The Chamber of Commerce appointed a committee to seek subscriptions in June, 1909. These were: Charles M. Cooke, Ltd., C. H. Cooke, Acting Director; Inter-Island Steam Navigation Co., Ltd., James A. Kennedy, General Manager; Mr. W. G. Irwin; Kilauea Volcano House, Ltd., E. W. Campbell, Treasurer; Hilo Rail Road Co., Lorrin A. Thurston, General Manager; Hawaiian Promotion Committee; Mr. George Wilcox; Mr. Aug. Knudsen and the Bishop Museum.
The founding of the Volcano Observatory and the formation of the group of subscribers called the “Research Association,” were themselves evolved productions of the inspiring work of early investigators, as well as of the natural intellectual stimulus created in man by the unexplained Kilauea lake of boiling nebulous flux.
October 5, 1911, at a well-attended meeting in the University Club, Honolulu, an informal organization of the Research Association was adopted and placed in the hands of a committee consisting of L. A. Thurston, chairman; A. F. Judd, representing the trustees of the Bishop Museum; President J. W. Gilmore, representing the College of Hawaii; C. H. Cooke, treasurer of the association; J. A. Kennedy.
Mr. Thurston at this meeting pointed out that there should be no break in the collection of records at Kilauea so well started by Mr. Perret, and suggested that a committee of five be appointed with power to act, to draw up a form of organization and to solicit subscriptions to help cover daily operations.
The persons who signed the subscription list of 1909 had been interviewed and had mostly expressed themselves as willing to renew their subscriptions. He reviewed the history of the observatory movement and then suggested that a voluntary, unincorporated, local organization be formed, to secure funds to carry on volcanic research; such funds to be administered and expended by an unpaid executive committee of five to be annually elected by the association.
The meeting of October, 1911 put the money-raising in the hands of the committee of five, and the estate of CM Cooke, Ltd. became guarantor of a fund of $5,000 annually, the actual subscriptions in Hawaii at first amounting to some three-quarters of that sum.
Mr. Jaggar by personal interviews raised $2,800 additional in 1912, assisted by a new subscription blank approved July 10, 1912, by the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce. In January of that year he had raised $1,785 in Hilo through the energetic assistance of Mr. Demosthenes Lycurgus, with the approval of the Hilo Board of Trade, this money being for the Observatory building.
A few small gifts have been made for special purposes such as the motorcar and certain specimens destined for the Bishop Museum.
The subscriptions are partly for five years, but many are renewable from year to year. Their motto was Ne plus haustae aut obrutae urbes (No more shall the cities be destroyed).
President Gilmore mentioned the many unsolved problems at the volcanoes and the necessity for continuous and concerted effort to collect data. He pointed out the extensive instrumental equipment which would be necessary and agreed for the College of Hawaii to give such assistance as its rules would permit.
Mr. Judd expressed great interest on the part of the Bishop Museum and undertook to investigate thoroughly what funds could be used to this end under the trust deed of that Institution.
Mr. C. H. Cooke, president of the Bank of Hawaii, deplored the multiplicity of organizations in Honolulu and expressed the belief that it would be to the welfare of all concerned if the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) would take the scientific responsibility of the work.
Governor Frear cited two main propositions as involved in the plan of work of the proposed Volcano Research Association, one concerning the scientific value of the work and the other the advertising of the Islands to the world.
He did not know whether the government could assist but it might profitably be brought before the legislature. He thought the project would be heartily endorsed by the Hawaiian members.
Mr. T. Clive Davies expressed the hope that the scientific motive would greatly dominate the publicity idea as he feared the “blighting hand of commercialism” would seriously interfere with good research.
The net result of this meeting was to establish an association for the private subscription of money to volcano research. Through this, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory was formed.
According to its constitution, the name of this Association shall be the Hawaiian Volcano Research Association. The objects of this Association shall be:
- To encourage and promote investigation of and research concerning volcanoes and volcanic phenomena, and all matters connected therewith or incidental thereto;
- To establish and maintain an observatory at the Volcano of Kilauea, with subordinate stations at other points, from which investigation and research may be conducted, and at which records may be made and kept for the information of all, subject to the rules of the Association;
- To invite scientific institutions and observers to make use of the buildings, apparatus and facilities of the Association, subject to the rules of the Association, and, so far as possible, to assist such institutions and observers in carrying on their work;
- To promote the publication and dissemination of knowledge concerning volcanology and allied subjects, and to accumulate literature, photographs, models, maps and specimens, relating thereto, for the information of all, subject to the rules of the Association.
Membership was open to Any person, corporation, association or institution signing an application blank, whose name may be approved by the Board of Directors and who shall pay the dues prescribed by the Constitution, shall thereby become a member of the Association. (The membership dues shall be $5.00 per annum, payable annually in advance.)
Those who contribute to the support of the Association other than or in addition to the membership dues, shall be known as ”Patrons” of the Association.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), in operation from July 1, 1912, under the direction of the Department of Geology of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in part, received initial funding from trustees of the Estates of Edward and Caroline Whitney.
The Whitney Fund provided $25,000 to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where the principal and interest of the fund was for the conduct of research or teaching in geophysics.
MIT cooperated with the Hawaiian Volcano Research Association by becoming its largest subscriber for the five years, through the income of the Whitney fund and other payments. The Research Association’s funding support continued for several decades.
By December 1915, with Jaggar having worked in Hawai‘i for three years, the Research Association and MIT sent him to Washington DC to appeal to Congress to take over HVO as a government institution. In addition, the governor of Hawai‘i and the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce asked him to continue to push for the establishment of a national park. (Moniz Namakura)
The US Geological Survey (USGS) has operated HVO continuously since 1947. Before then, HVO was under the administration of various Federal agencies – the US Weather Bureau, at the time part of the Department of Agriculture, from 1919 to 1924; the USGS, which first managed HVO from 1924 to 1935; and the National Park Service from 1935 to 1947.
It currently operates under the direction of the USGS Volcano Science Center, which now supports five volcano observatories covering six US areas – Hawaiʻi (HVO), Alaska and the Northern Mariana Islands (Alaska Volcano Observatory), Washington and Oregon (Cascades Volcano Observatory), California (California Volcano Observatory), and the Yellowstone region (Yellowstone Volcano Observatory). (Information here is from various documents of USGS, HVO and NPS.)