If a volcano erupted in your backyard, your first instinct might be to flee as far away from it as possible. Following the eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea on May 3rd, however, some Hawaiians had a different idea. While most are certainly staying clear of the lava and its toxic fumes, others have devised a silver lining.
Twitter user Jay Furr asked the official USGS Volcanoes Twitter account whether it’s “safe to roast marshmallows over volcanic vents? Assuming you had a long enough stick, that is? Or would the resulting marshmallows be poisonous?”
While Ham Porter from The Sandlot might be impressed with this ingenuity, the USGS Volcanoes Twitter account was less enthusiastic. They informed the user that roasting marshmallows over volcano vents was unsafe, and that “if the vent is emitting a lot of SO2 or H2S, they would taste BAD. And if you add sulfuric acid (in vog, for example) to sugar, you get a pretty spectacular reaction.” So, that settles it. As your snack would be covered in sulfur dioxide, and potentially sulfuric acid from the volcanic smog, roasting marshmallows over volcano vents could make you pretty sick.
There’s no denying, though, that some Hawaiians don’t seem to be as scared of the eruption as we might on the mainland. Many see it as the work of Mother Nature, which is to be respected and left untouched. Pele is the Hawaiian goddess of fire, lava, and volcanoes, and according to Hawaiian mythology, Kilauea is said to be her home. Some Hawaiians do not view the eruption as a catastrophe, but as a momentous event, and are leaving offerings to the goddess around areas where the lava has been flowing.
Though a spiritual event for some, even the goddess Pele probably agrees that roasting marshmallows over her lava isn’t quite the best idea.