Adventurer, environmentalist and wildlife advocate Alison Teal has just become the first person to surf and swim around the base of an erupting volcano.

In extraordinary scenes captured by underwater photographer Perrin James, Teal rode her pink surfboard up to Hawaii’s Kīlauea Volcano as it spewed glowing red molten rock into the ocean, and then proceeded to paddle the board through the lava strafed water protected by nothing more than a bikini.

‘The sudden warming of the ocean seemed to support sea life and organisms I’ve never seen in Hawaiian waters,’ she said after the eye-catching stunt. ‘There appeared to be small stinging golden Jelly-fish like creatures that my team of ocean experts and I have never experienced before.’

Before venturing into the troubled water, Teal consulted with local Elders, seeking their guidance and permission, and she then followed cultural protocol. ‘Pele, the goddess of the Volcano, is a highly respected and often feared force in Hawaii and very specific traditions must be followed to avoid certain death,’ she explains.

Even with the deities onboard with the adventure, Teal took the precaution of having an expert support team accompany her for the mission. ‘The molten lava would cook a human body in seconds, the fumes are lethal, and the ocean currents and waves are treacherous,’ she pointed out.

Given the green light by the elders and the thumbs up from experts, the team began their expedition at sunrise, driving for three hours and then taking a fishing boat for a further five hours around the island to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, where Kīlauea has been venting its fiery fury since 3 January 1983.

Alison Teal approaches the base of the erupting volcano and then paddles away from the danger zone after being strafed by red hot rock spray.
Alison Teal approaches the base of the erupting volcano and then paddles away from the danger zone after being strafed by red hot rock spray.

Screen Shot from vid3

Screen Shot from vid1

Teal describes what happened next: ‘As I took a deep breath and hopped off the boat, a double rainbow appeared directly over our heads—one end appearing to coming out of the lava and the other out of our boat. To the Hawaiians, the anuenue, or rainbow, represents the pathway where the ali’i, or gods, come down to bless the earth… Suddenly a scary scene transformed into the most majestic moment of my life.

‘I was hoping to catch a wave, however, when I got in close I was hit by a spatter of hardening rock spray and I quickly ducked under water. I looked back and noticed a wave was coming and I paddled for my life to get out of the danger zone.’

‘Don’t try this at home,’ the adventurer somewhat unnecessarily added later.

Teal, who was recently named the ‘Female Indiana Jones’ by Time Magazine as part of their #NewAdventurers series, lives a castaway lifestyle in Kona, Hawaii, with her famous father, National Geographic photographer David Blehert. She runs an online series called Alison’s Adventures, and uses her audience to promote environmental and wildlife issues.


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