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Importance of lava tubes described in new Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park video

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A still of the new 10-minute short film, “ʻOhi Wai.” Photo Courtesy: National Park Service

A new documentary produced by Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park reveals the importance of lava tubes, both culturally and as ecosystems.

The short film also shares Hawaiian culture to a broad audience during Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

“ʻOhi Wai” is a 10-minute video in the parkʻs ʻIke Hana Noʻeau (Experience the Skillful Work) film series that reveals how lava tubes were once conduits for torrents of molten lava. Once the lava stopped flowing, an empty lava tube, or cave, was left behind. Retired park ranger Bobby Camara describes how Hawaiians used lava tubes to gather wai (water) in ipu (gourds) as it dripped through lava tube ceilings, making life sustainable in arid environments.


Park archeologist Summer Roper-Todd shares how lava tubes often house irreplaceable cultural and natural resources. All lava tubes are protected in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

The video can be viewed free on the park website and YouTube along with other videos in the ʻIke Hana Noʻeau series. Big Island Television, which airs in more than 6,000 hotel rooms on the island of Hawaiʻi and on Spectrum Channel 130, will also broadcast “ʻOhi Wai” to its audience.

“ʻOhi Wai” was produced by Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park rangers and filmed on location in the park. It is accessible with audio description and closed captions in English and ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language).


The park created the videos for everyone, including kānaka maoli wanting to learn or reconnect to their culture, park visitors, local residents, educators and students. The park’s non-profit partners, the Friends of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and the Hawaiʻi Pacific Parks Association, helped support and fund the ʻIke Hana Noʻeau video project.

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