Haleakala National Park in Hawaii is home to a massive (dormant) volcanic crater, stunning sunrises and sunsets, clear night skies, and dramatic lava-shaped landscapes. Naturally, it’s a popular attraction on the island of Maui. Unfortunately, taking lava rocks from the park is common among visitors. If you’re caught trying to sneak rocks out of the park, the NPS will fine you… but if you do wind up successfully smuggling something out of the park, you might wind up with something worse than a fine. Something like… a curse from a volcano-dwelling fire goddess with a hot temper. Trust me, you don’t want to get on her bad side by stealing one of Haleakala National Park’s cursed lava rocks.
In 2017, park rangers at Haleakala National Park received 1,275 stolen rocks returned in the mail. Often, these were accompanied by apology notes to Pele. She’s the Hawaiian goddess of fire, lightning, wind, and volcanoes. According to legend, she created the Hawaiian islands, forged from lava. She’s kind of a badass. Most stories about her highlight her jealousy, rage, sneakiness, and, above all, her power. Of all of the Hawaiian deities, she’s the one you least want to piss off.
We can’t confirm or deny that taking one of Haleakala National Park’s cursed lava rocks will stick you with bad luck and the eternal scorn of Pele. But, even if you don’t believe in curses, know that taking anything from the park is kind of a dick move. As the park noted in a Facebook post about taking rocks, “The park receives 1.5 million visitors per year. If everyone took a rock home, native habitats would be harmed and there’d be nothing left for the future.” Plus, the rocks are sacred. The post also talks about “the Native Hawaiian belief that plants, animals, and rocks are imbued with spiritual significance.”
“Hawaiian culture teaches that nature is the physical manifestation of Hawaiian gods and goddesses. The Hawaiian value of malama ‘āina (caring for the land) is connected to this belief and promotes respect of the natural world.”
So, you took one of Haleakala National Park’s cursed lava rocks and want to send it back.
As for the returned rocks, rangers can’t simply put them back. Rangers freeze them for a full month to kill any foreign bacteria. This is because it prevents any risk of endangering native species. Then, they place the rocks in front of the visitor center. There’s no way to know which part of the crater they came from, and putting them back just anywhere would confuse the ecosystem’s “geological story”.
As a result, rangers even have an official document tracking where the rocks come from.
Remember that it is illegal to take anything from any National Park, and, most of all, it hurts ecosystems. Check out Haleakala National Park’s Facebook post with all the details on their cursed lava rocks!
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