Oli (chants) and mo'olelo (stories of this region recount the celebrated battle between Pelehonuamea (Pele, the volcano deity) and her sister, Hi'iakaikapoliopele (Hi'iaka), that erupted here at the summit of Kīlauea.
After a series of vengeful acts between the sisters, Hi'iaka retaliated. She stomped furiously and violently clawed her way into the volcano in an attempt to destroy Pele.
The stories carefully chronicle a series of intense earthquakes and explosions that hurled rocks out of the deepening pit. Towering ash clouds turned day into night and lightning pierced the skies.
Science corroborates that this account was based on actual events.
Ash deposits and carbon dating confirm that the summit of Kīlauea collapsed around 1490. Geologists estimated the initial abyss may have been over 2,000 feet (600 m) deep.
Explosions occurred repeatedly over the next 300 years, culminating in the deadly eruption of 1790 when clouds of ash surged outwards over 2 miles (3.5 km).
In a final expression of volcanic fury, violent explosions flung dense rock from the floor of the caldera up and over the rim. A 6-ton boulder just ahead stands as a monument to the awesome power and explosive potential of Hawaiian volcanos.
As Hi'iaka reshaped the land, she provided a precious gift to the people of Hawai'i
In the early 1800s, historian Samuel Kamakau wrote in "Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii" that ... the best stone for the purpose (of carving canoes) was the hokele rock (dense and fine-grained rocks that were blasted out of the caldera) ... and the adze were fashioned at the crater of Pele where hokele rock was to be found ...
In 2001, the park archeologists discovered more than 277 stone working stations were skilled workers labored over hokele found in this area. Craftsmen used smaller stones to make knife blades and drill bits. Larger rocks were sculpted into ko'i (adze), one of the most important tools to the people of pre-contact Hawaii.