After receiving the invite from photographer Perrin James and Producer Asa Suguitan, I didn’t sleep much the night before talking with the team and attempting to research and prep for the unknown. There was no survival guide to read or any girls to call for advice because no female to my knowledge had done it before. Although I always harness a healthy level of fear, I live for adventure. It was a combination of sheer excitement and uncertainty if I would come out alive.
The most important prep element other then safety, was consulting with the Hawaii elders for guidance, permission, and exact cultural protocol.
I got up before sunrise and had to drive 3 hours from my home to the place where we launched a 35 foot fishing boat and then took a 5 hour boat ride through wild seas and arrived at sunset.
Going to swim in the hot molten lava flowing into the ocean ???? As far as I know I'm the first girl to do / capture this! Stoked to team up with underwater photographer Perrin James and if Facebook Live doesn't work out there I'm excited to share the images when we return! Excited, nervous, and ready to pay my respect to Pele! ????
When we came around the corner on the boat and saw the molten waterfalls of lava pouring into the ocean and heard the sound of steam and cracking rock it was extremely intimidating as I have heard many myths, legends, and modern day stories about the wrath that Lava Goddess Pele unleashes on unwanted visitors. The Hawaiians believe that if Pele does not like a certain visitor she will make it very clear.
… not to mention, where the lava meets the ocean, water temperatures are reaching upwards of 156 degrees Fahrenheit.
As I took a deep breath and hopped off the boat, a double rainbow appeared directly over our heads – one end appearing to come out of the lava and the other out of our boat.
To the Hawaiians, the ānuenue, 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. Even though the elements were still in wild flux around me, I felt a sense of calm and the true power of nature was all encompassing.
I hope to inspire everyone to travel and experience the beauty and inspiration that can be found in nature. You do not have to swim with an active volcano to feel the power of nature and the desire to be involved in preserving our planet. Challenge yourself and go fearlessly forward toward your dreams.
Afterwards I felt exhilarated and exhausted at the same time. It was an absolute endorphin high but also terrifying. Anything could have happened.
The only comparison I can imagine is when the astronauts come back from space and they feel awe and profound appreciation for our planet and life on it. It was completely humbling and it made me feel more connected to nature and the ocean than ever before and instilled in me a greater responsibility for helping to take care of our planet for future generations to enjoy.
This was a life long dream! I’ve had a very special connection with the lava and the Hawaiian culture. Growing up in a family of explorers it was always non-stop travel. My papa, David Blehert is a world-renowned adventure photographer and my mother Deborah Koehn, is a naturalist and internationally-acclaimed yoga teacher. We wanted to build a home to live in between travels and over my lifetime we created, by hand, and oceanfront retreat center built at the base of an ancient lava flow, that has become known as the real “Swiss Family Robinson” where people can come from all over the world and experience living off the grid and close to nature.
My home sweet Hawaii is surrounded by lava. And when I was a baby and we began to build our home we would camp out on the lava.
With a life of constant travel for my papa’s adventure photography assignments, coming back to Hawaii and seeing lava made me feel at home – it was literally and figuratively the rock in my life.
IMPORTANT: These kind of expeditions take careful prep and consideration in addition to safety precautions, and cultural consideration. I do not recommend doing this nor encourage it EVER. The water is boiling, the fumes are lethal and the ocean conditions are beyond treacherous.
It was a shock that our adventure became one of the most viral stories of the year, and I’m determined to use my platform for good in this wild world!