The Volcanic Landmarks of Oahu, Hawaii – Part 2, Punchbowl Crater

For reference, Diamond Head is on the left in the far background, Punchbowl Crater is center right with the foothills of the Koolau Mountain Range in the foreground on the left. Image by Travis.Thurston (Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA).

For reference, Diamond Head is on the left in the far background, Punchbowl Crater is center right with the foothills of the Koolau Mountain Range in the foreground on the left. Image by Travis.Thurston (Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA).

Punchbowl Crater is a product of the Honolulu Volcano Series.  It is a tuff cone that was formed 75,000 – 100,000 years ago from the ejection of hot lava through cracks in the old coral reefs which, at the time, extended to the foot of the Koolau Mountain Range.  Like Diamond Head, it is considered monogenic, meaning it was a one-blast wonder and will probably never awaken again.  It is called the “The Punchbowl” because of its round shape with the tuff ring resembling the scalloped rim of a punchbowl.  The crater walls are composed of volcanic mud or tufa.  The rim-to-rim diameter is 2,200 (671 m) feet north-south and 1,800 (549 m) feet east-west.  On the slopes are great quantities of cinder-like volcanic ash, locally called “black sand”.  The interior of the crater is lined with this ash. The drilling of an artesian well (sometime before 1916) near the flanks revealed 10 feet (3 m) of black sand, 13 feet (4 m) of coral and finally 50 feet (15m) of tufa.

Although there are various translations of the Punchbowl’s Hawaiian name, “Puowaina,” the most common is “Hill of Sacrifice.”  The first known use of the crater was as an altar where Hawaiians offered human sacrifices to pagan gods and the killed violators of the many taboos. Later, during the reign of Kamehameha the Great (July 1782 – May 8, 1819), a battery of two cannons was mounted at the rim of the crater to salute distinguished arrivals and signify important occasions. Early in the 1880s, leasehold land on the slopes of the Punchbowl opened for settlement and in the 1930s, the crater was used as a rifle range for the Hawaii National Guard. Toward the end of World War II, tunnels were dug through the rim of the crater for the placement of shore batteries to guard Honolulu Harbor and the south edge of Pearl Harbor.  One of the most breathtaking views of the Island of Oahu can be found while standing at the highest point on the crater’s rim.

The Punchbowl today houses the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.  In the early 1940’s Congress authorized a small appropriation to establish a national cemetery in Honolulu with two provisions: that the location be acceptable to the War Department, and that the site would be donated rather than purchased. In 1943, the governor of Hawaii offered the Punchbowl for this purpose. The $50,000 appropriation proved insufficient, however, and the project was deferred until World War II ended.  By 1947, Congress and veteran organizations placed a great deal of pressure on the military to find a permanent burial site in Hawaii for the remains of thousands of World War II servicemen on the island of Guam awaiting permanent burial. Subsequently, the Army again began planning the 112 acre Punchbowl cemetery.  In February 1948, Congress approved funding and construction began.  The first interment took place January 4, 1949.  Temporary star and cross (denoting faith) upright markers were later replaced by flat granite markers inscribed with the appropriate faiths.  Nearly 13,000 World War II dead from the Pacific are buried here. They came from such battle sites as Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, China, Burma, Saipan, Guam and Iwo Jima and from the prisoner of war camps in Japan.  To my knowledge, it is the only cemetery of its kind, inside the crater of a volcano.

In 1923 Congress established the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).  Its members consist of 11 presidential appointees and 1 officer of the Army to serve as the Secretary.  The appointments are indefinite and offer no compensation.  Today the ABMC administers, operates and maintains on foreign soil 25 permanent American burial grounds, and 26 separate memorials, monuments and markers, including three memorials in the United States.  In 1964, the ABMC erected the Honolulu Memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific “to honor the sacrifices and achievements of American Armed Forces in the Pacific during World War II and in the Korean War”. The memorial was expanded in 1980 to include the Vietnam War. The names of 28,788 military personnel who are missing in action or were lost or buried at sea in the Pacific during these conflicts are listed on marble slabs in ten “Courts of the Missing” which flank the Memorial’s grand stone staircase.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Image by Jiang (Wikipedia, Public domain).

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawai’i. Image by Jiang (Wikipedia, Public domain).

The dedication stone at the base of staircase is engraved with the following words:







At the top of the staircase in the Court of Honor is a statue of Lady Columbia, also known as Lady Liberty, or Justice.  Here she is reported to represent all grieving mothers. She stands on the bow of a ship holding a laurel branch. The inscription below the statue, taken from Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby, reads:







On a personal note, I have been there.  A cousin by marriage lost her first husband (father of 2 children) on the submarine USS Golet, a victim of depth charges off the coast of Japan.  It was relatively easy to find his name on one of these walls.  They are alphabetical by branch of service and war served in.  It was, for me, extremely humbling to see these thousands of names and realize that each one of them left a family whose loved one would never come home and whose remains would never be found.

Even though I knew I was on a volcano, I didn’t appreciate what I was seeing like I would today.  I was only 20 years old and thought the island was full of “old” tourists.  Now I am one of them and hopefully much wiser.

The memorial contains a small chapel and tribute to the various battles fought in the Pacific. Image by Jiang (Wikipedia, Public domain).

This memorial contains a small chapel and tribute to the various battles fought in the Pacific. Image by Jiang (Wikipedia, Public domain).


The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Image by Jiang (Wikipedia, Public domain).

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Image by Jiang (Wikipedia, Public domain).

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific occupies most of Punchbowl Crater.  It is now at capacity except for cremated remains or interment in the same grave as a family member.  This is quite common in American national cemeteries for husband and wife and/or child to be buried in the same grave, one atop the other, with a maximum of 3.

This cemetery is very accessible and I would highly recommend seeing it if you are visiting Oahu.  The view is stunning, the grounds beautiful.  It is a fitting final resting place to remind us of the human cost of war.



Disclaimer:  Not an expert, etc., etc.

Credits not already listed:

Scientific Monthly, Vol. 2 (1916) edited by James McKeen Cattell

And again, thanks to Matt, the Friday riddles: The answers can be volcanoes and volcanic or geologic features. 2 points are awarded for each answer, 1 point after a clue is given. Enjoy!

All gone








1) The image. Answer: Kula plate (The Kula plate subducted under North America, North of the Farallon, before the Pacific plate arrived.  Kula means “all gone” in Tlingit (a native Alaskan tribe) language. Dinojura44, 2 points. 

2) Mine was launched right after Mir. Answer: Udachnaya pipe. This pipe has a diamond mine, and the volcanic pipe for another major diamond mine, “Mir” was discovered days before this one. Inannamoon667, 2 points. 

3) It probably wasn’t named by the Russians, and it probably doesn’t house the refugees of a sunken continent. Clue:  I’ll sit back and have a carbonated beverage with Tina. Answer: Mt. Shasta .Some evidence suggests that Russian explorers named the mountain “Tchastal,” but more likely it was the native name for the mountain. A 19th century wacko story, that is still alive today, says that the mountain is home to “Lemurians” who came from a sunken continent in the Pacific. Bobbi, 1 point. 

4) The celestial creator of the bear and the kiwi. Clue:  It once visited a windy cog railway. Answer: The Great Meteor hotspot.  Bear seamount and Kiwi seamount, off New England, were created by this. Inannamoon667, 1 point. 

5) You’ll never guess this volcano mountain. Answer: Volcano Mountain in the Yukon territory, Sissel, 2 points. 

Score board:

5 Sissel
3 KarenZ
1 RenatoRio



335 thoughts on “The Volcanic Landmarks of Oahu, Hawaii – Part 2, Punchbowl Crater

  1. Hello again everyone. I am back. It’s taken me a few days to get back into routine and to replace energy due to some sleepless nights and travelling. But I am now back to almost normal….well normal for me 🙂 It’s also taken some time to read up nearly a month’s worth of posts and comments.
    Thank Bobbi another good one. I really would like to see the Hawaiian Islands.
    Things look interesting in Iceland and lively round Etna. Sadly the live cam is no working at present for me but that could just be my PC that has been complaining about getting back to work. An irritating virus had to be sorted and the ensuing virus zapping acitivities left a few programs not working properly.
    Congrats to Carl on his impending nuptials. Hugs to everyone else. It’s so good to be back.

  2. And in regards of Katla (and all other Icelandic places).
    If Katla would be gearing up for an eruption a key element besides a large continous earthquake swarm would be rapid inflation. Before the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull we saw an inflation on some stations in the rage of 12 to 24 centimeters, and we would be seeing numbers in that region prior to a Katla eruption too as magma moved into the system. Currently there has been no movement at any Katla related station.

      • Down? Well they are down as in Down, not as in not functioning. If we look at Godabunga for instance the last datapoint shown is from yesterday (normal) and the station is showing a downwards trend.
        And Enta is showing downwads longterm trend, last datapoint yesterday.

        Why is there now no datapoint for today? The answer is simple, the system is waiting for the detranding data from the reference stations.

        • Oh nice. The ones I looked at had the last datapoint on June 18th. 🙂

          Btw, is this some wind stuff or actuall tremor on those few occasions?

    • Nothing new here, just more repetition of the same stuff “under high pressure”. The question is how much pressure is needed for an eruption? All volcanoes are under pressure, so that’s not really saying much.

    • Start with the lithospheric stress, Then concider the depth that the force operes from. At about 2700 kg per cubic meter, that adds up fast. At the depth in question, Convert from kg/m² to pascal or psi. That will be about the minimum needed.
      At this point you should start thinking about the sheer strength of the rock. Once that pops inertia from the shock front is on your side and can work towards snapping a path to the surface. (Probably a mode 1 fracture sequence)

      • Leave it to you to bring in the actual equations :p.

        Does anybody actually know the sheer strength of the rock. and what is the actual pressure in the chamber? Formulas are great and all, but without the actual inputs and variables to add it all up, it becomes pretty useless.

      • That’s the rub. Since I am not a rock person, I can’t begin to guess how lithospheric stress affects the fracture strength of rock at depth. My gut feel is that it acts as an additional amount of force that is needed to start the fracture. At least that is the way it seems from the “Thick wall” formulas for the hoop stress calculations.

        A subset of the Mogi model deals specifically with chamber pressure rather than volume. I’m on the tablet now and am sporting a headache, so I can’t look into it right now.

    • The Japanese checked out Mt Fuji thoroughly after the 2011 earthquakes, especially in the light of the proximity of Mt Fuji to Tokyo, and concluded that there was no increased risk of eruption at the time of their study.

      • When did Prof. Brenguier start the study? And what is he comparing the results to? Also what extra vigilance does he expect the already vigilant Japanese to put in place?

  3. And so begins my afternoon experiment. Planked tillapia. Yes, there is a volcanic connection.

    See if you can guess what it is. ( it’s a bizzare connection, nothing overly complicated)

    • Tilapia means fish in Khi’Swahili. It originates from the Turkana lake that is volcanic. It spread out of that lake all over the African lake systems and rivers before Lake Turkana was closed off.
      The African Tilapia originates from the ancestral Tilapia that also evolved in another volcanic lake into the Asian Tilapia. So it is a volcanic Lake evolved fish.
      The ancestral Tilapia evolved back during the time when all the continents sat together, that is why you find Tilapia or Tilapia relatives in so many odd spots of the planet. So yet another volcanic connection.

      I spent an evening watching a two hour long french documentary about the evolution of Tilapias… If you can eat it the French have always made a kick-ass two hour long documentary about it and the Swedish television will always send the documentary. It is one of two reasons I have not thrown the tv out the window, the other is of course Tremors.

        • Tilapia is my favourite fish – in Malawi it is called Chambo and is found in Lake Malawi. It’s considered to be a great delicacy. Carl is right about Tilapia being found in odd places – I was watching a programme by a guy called Rick Stein (a British chef) who went to India to track down the best type of curry. He found a type of Tilapia in southern India that he said tasted wonderful. It looks just like Chambo. India was once joined to East Africa – a very, very long time ago. That’s one old type of fish!

          • Probably the oldest fish in existance, it has a very odd bone structure when you compare it to the other fishes.
            I smoked a freshly caught Tilapia on the shores of Lake Turkana. I wish I had known then what I know now about volcanoes. Turkana is awesome. I just wish I still had the pictures I took there.

            • Same here – not Turkana but the old volcano plugs in the Rift Valley. I once went on a field trip with an eccentric Californian scientist who wanted to see if the botany around these plugs was different to normal plants. I didn’t bother to find out his results then – it was just a fun trip into the Bush – now I’d be really excited about it.

              There’s a type of Tilapia found in Israel, in the Sea of Galilee, at the very top of the Rift. As you say a very odd fish, but also very useful and tasty.


  4. What a world in which some claim that the crater on Yamal peninsula is a result of global warming, that triggered an underground explosion, somehow, you know, I don’t know… I prefer the theory where lizard-ET’s pets, graboids as mentioned by Carl, wanted to play with their masters passing by checking if humanity was ready to be eaten. Or maybe a siberian guy droped a bottle of wodka – sure this stuff could be responsible for some nice dissolution structures…14 billions of years through which a faboulous energy formed matter, that with the help of gravity gave birth to galaxies and solar systems, in which lava-balls where transformed into planets with a crust and an atmosphere, on which life evolved until now, and all this to have such idiots as a result. That sucks.

    • It could be worse, if it is a Graboid all things are okay, if it is an Assblaster then we are in trouble 😉

      • It has always been a pleasure to chat in here as you can find people who extend your views like nowhere else.
        Assblaster shall be my word of the day.

      • …if you, dear Carl, could find the time to give me a precise definition of “assblaster”. I imagine all kinds of things, and the last time I was sitting on the throne today had to hold back from loughing (at work…) because I found that the term would quite well fit my activity at that very time.
        Sorry (nearly) to cause such a severe drop in discussion level.

        • I can answer that. The “AssBlaster” is a term that originated from the Tremors franchise. The Graboid is essentially an early stage that later morphs/hatches/births/yields anywhere from 3 to 6 (or so) smaller, bipedal critters that can only see in the infra-red spectrum. (shrieker) The stage following that is essentially the same creature with a larger heat sensor, and wings. It’s method of launching into flight is to mix two chemicals by wiggling it’s rear end. When the chemical reacts with air, it explodes and propels them into the air. Think explosive flatulence. The trait was based off of the bombardier beetle when they wrote that into the script.

          Also think of it as a more energetic “Blue Blazer.” (the correct term for people who delight themselves by lighting their farts… sometimes it’s quite disastrous when their clothing catches fire) Other than the color of the resulting flame, I have no idea how it came to be the name of a mixed drink.

  5. Beware of Synchronicity. Sometimes it bites you in the ass.

    Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, where they are unlikely to be causally related. The subject sees it as a meaningful coincidence. The concept of synchronicity was first described by Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist, in the 1920s.

    Malaysia Airlines Ukraine crash: Passenger who joked on Facebook before boarding jet now feared dead

    Syncronicity isn’t always bad. I was delayed getting on the road one day by an issue with my wife’s car. As soon as the tow truck dropped off her vehicle, I turned to get in my truck and noticed that I had a flat tire. I then had to change that. I later found out that there was a multi-vehicle pile up accident on the interstate at about where I would have been at had I left on time. At the time, I counted that one up as a good karma payout.

    Lesson? Don’t curse your bad luck. In some way, it might actually be a good thing.

    Meanwhile, at Barcelona…

  6. I know the LIA really sacked in Europe, but if it were anything like what we are getting here in Florida, it was farking glorious. Last night was in the mid 60 degree F and today is phenomenal.

    Sitting out back with the dog, grilling smoked sausage and munching sausage and tomato sandwiches.

    Normally Florida has oppressive humidity.

    • Very hot here in southern Britain (Wiltshire) by our standards: that is about 26C (80F). I like it humid but most people don’t. I think London and further east is hotter. Tomorrow we have thunderstorms.

      • hi Tally I live in east sussex been very humid here as well . I luv the hot weather like in spain but there isn’t humid like we do have in the uk . I do think you might get some storm tonight .

        • Hi Jack: We did get a lovely big storm last night. The best for years in fact. Now a hot, humid day, my favourite weather. 🙂

    • Quite aways more than I make of Katla…
      I think that it might be a sign that Bárdarbunga might be gearing up towards an eruption. But if it will be in 3 months or 10 years is anyones guess. If it erupts it will be anything from the 1918 VEI-3 to the 1996 VEI-1 eruption. I do not expect anything big from Bárdarbunga since it is still rebuilding after the 1477 VEI-6 caldera event.

  7. Hot and humid…Stuffy, Airless here. It does not bode well for a good night’s sleep!
    Assblaster? A new word I can find a use for :D.
    Two guys weaving across the road in the middle of our town this lunch time. I think going from one pub to the next. The first lurched in front of the car in front of me. His buddy lurched towards the front of my car….. I stopped and he changed course. Came to my window and said ” OK Darling?”
    My response?
    “I can see how you got that” I said as I pointed to his left arm which was in a plaster cast. “The way you are going you will soon have the other arm as plastered as you are!”. He merrily banged on the roof of the car and wended his way between my rear bumper and the car behind.
    I blame the heat . Us Brits are not used to good weather 😀

    (Blows a kiss to geoLoco. Good to see you 🙂 )

    • I hope you got the storm we did Diana, as it cleared the air. I always sleep like a log in hot weather but can’t sleep in winter when it’s cold. I blame being brought up in a hot, humid, country on the Equator! Brits are well known for not knowing how to cope in the heat – I’ve had a few partially clothed, lobster-coloured, chaps staggering past my house from the pub. When will they learn that it’s cooler indoors and keep their clothes on if they burn in the sun. 🙂 (Also agree that it’s nice to see GeoLoco again 🙂 )

  8. On Topic. Southern Iceland is busy. I watch and wait. I am happy now I can see the Mila web cams again.
    (Waves greetings and blows kisses to islander, Irpsit and Jamie 🙂 One day it would be good if they could make a time and date and stand on the little bridge walkway at Blue lagoon and wave to the camera….then we could all wave back 😀 :D))

  9. Okay. I’m suitably freaked now. The tooth monster went freaking nuts trying to get at something on the roof. Whatever it was… he really wanted a piece of it. Squirrels don’t usually come out at night, and possums aren’t known to leap 10 feet up unto a roof. I got my flashlight to look, but whatever it was had moved up a few houses because I could hear their dogs going nuts. My tooth monster had settled down by then, but was still peering around for it.

    • … one of thee reasons I was slow to look up there with the flashlight. The situation did have that creep factor so I didn’t really want to look. I kept running an inventory in my head about what sort of creatures living in the area could be on my roof and grab the dogs attention and cause him to want a piece of it with such zeal, yet still not make a sound that I could hear.

      • What are the other two reasons? I agree there is always a bit of fear involved when investigating what the dog is barking at – will it be something scary, revolting or dangerous. Luckily where I live now it’s usually next door’s cat, but in Malawi my Labrador had a thing for snakes. He hated them with a passion after a Spitting Cobra spat at him!

      • Well, that word is mangled. In this case, an extra “e” wound up in it rather than a dropped “r”.

        But If I must come up with three more reasons… here is a stab at it.

        1) Some fly by night roofer stealing my shingles.
        2) A swat team planting evidence to implicate me in the Gunpowder Plot.
        3) Finding something that challenges my grasp on reality.

        Ref #3. I’ve had incidents that did that. Example: Cloudy sporadically Moonlit night, Central Mississippi, a group of us went down to the old swinging bridge at Byram to shoot bottle rockets. One of mine took off on a near horizontal trajectory and detonated next to a stand of trees over hanging the river. A long piercing wail is heard from that area. Sounded a lot like a wailing child. Scared the ever loving crap out of us. In retrospect, it was probably a Bob Cat. Well, at least I hope it was a Bob Cat. At the time, “Prophesy” was a just released movie, a story about a deformed large bear lurking in the woods killing people. My personal knowledge of the area didn’t help. Not a month before that, they had discovered a disposed of body wrapped in plastic that had been dumped along side of a dirt road that parallels the river there on the other side of the bridge.

        • At around 800 lb, I don’t think my roof could support that. I had heard no walking around up there, and where the dog was alerting on was directly above my chair at the computer. The dog was trying desperately to climb up the wall outside my window.

          • Hmmm! It’s a puzzle – do you get large owls around your way? They can land very quietly and dogs don’t like them. Other large birds would make a racket I guess. Escaped monkey or other climbing pet? I mention the birds because my present dog hates them even flying over her.

            • A large owl might land quietly, but they sure don’t take off quietly. I was walking past a tower (the kind you put a TV antenna on) one night that an owl was sitting on. It took off and about scared the bejeezus out of me. Huge wing span.

            • Well, an owl is a possibility. The problem is they don’t typically frequent this dense of housing, but it’s not fully devoid of owl chow. I have a hawk that nests in a tree not that far from here. He’s close enough that I keep a firm eye on the two small dogs when they are out and keep an iron plant hanger out in the open part of the yard just to make it a less attractive swoop area. Clip a wing on that and the hunter becomes the hunted. The Tooth monster is usually out when they are, so he serves as an added deterrent. He loves to snatch things out of the air.

    • And that could mean that an eruption is imminent there.
      Normally increase of volcanic gases alone is not enough, but in this case we have had longterm seismic activity and we know that the volcanic tremor is at an alltime high. So I would not be surprised if the volcano erupts at anytime from now to a week. But I am not a volcanologist responsible for the volcano so do not take this as an official warning. It is my personal opinion.

    • The image is really very clear. One can see the subduction zone and a red plume of magma ascending. Too bad they did not do a rotating 3d plot like the ones we do !

      • 🙂
        Well, they have mapped one W-E section. Perhaps they will do it when they got a few more, but presumably that was outside the budget.

    • Nitpicky me here… it is not electrical resistivity they have measured, that is a tomographic map that measures conductivity of earthquake energy.

      • Confused here and don´t have access to the full text…
        From the abstract: “By incorporating constraints from a collocated seismic study into the magnetotelluric inversion process” meaning they used older seismic tomography to constrain their new tomography based on magnetic and telluric (electric) sensors?

        • magnetotelluric just means that they have made a magnetic mapping of any magnetic material down below. It is a pretty nifty proces since you can decide where the hotzones are if you know the average Curiepoint for the material involved.
          But no electricity involved more than in the equipments operation.

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