Around that time, in the same place - the spring of 1995, at the end of Chain of Craters Road - a Yale physics-and-English graduate was pondering where to do her postgraduate study. Kilauea sold her on the spot. Today Jackie Caplan-Auerbach is a geology professor at Western Washington University, in Bellingham, Wash., a geophysicist and seismologist who credits Pu'u 'O'o with inspiring her career.
"I took one look," she told me in an interview. "It was so mind-blowing to me that this primal and fundamental activity of the planet was right there to study. It was a life-changing moment."