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Mark Twain and Tropicbirds
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Sulphur doesn't bother this old bird!


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2:00 minutes (1.63 MB)
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When Mark Twain visited Hawaii in 1866, he was able to inspect a live volcano, Halema’uma’u, which he described as “a crimson cauldron.” Twain concluded his impressions of the hellish scene by writing, “The smell of sulfur is strong, but not unpleasant to a sinner.” That eruption came to an end in 1924, and life awakened in the crater in a different form. White-tailed Tropicbirds began to nest there, on ledges along the crater’s 300-foot cliffs. Then in March 2008, the crater’s volcanic spark rekindled. Vast clouds of gas belched forth, as they do today. But the tropicbirds seem undaunted by the smell of sulfur, and continue to fly across the crater, their shimmering white forms appearing and disappearing through the crater’s ghostly cloud.

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