Jobs in the Danger Zone

Ken Hon and his team of volcanologists brave molten lava and gas emissions to study the Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii.

From mass extinctions to jet flame out, we’re just beginning to understand the vast impacts of volcanic activity. Firewalkers profiles a team of volcanologists who brave molten lava and gas emissions to study the Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii. Though this harsh, barren environment is usually closed to the public, Parallax Film Productions gains special access to these groundbreaking researchers, their deadly work, and their forbidden laboratory.

In research led by Ken Hon, they work within reach of one of nature’s most powerful and unpredictable volcanoes, braving eruption and the possibility of a horrific natural disaster to observe this amazing “living geology”. The goal: better understand and predict the volcano’s path of destruction to help mitigate damage to nearby communities. Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on earth. It can gush more than 492,000 litres of molten rock a minute – enough to cover Washington, D.C. in a day. Its violent legacy has obliterated almost 650 square kilometres of lowland, including entire towns.

This Discovery documentary profiles one of the most dangerous jobs around. Hon and a pioneering team of volcanologists, working out of Hawaii’s Volcano Observatory, study every aspect of this natural phenomenon – from analyzing its historical impacts on nearby towns like Kalapana to gathering lava samples through skylights, nature’s peephole into a volcano. Hon and other volcanologists like Don Swanson and Steve Self know that while it’s impossible to actually stop eruptions, their work may lead to more accurate predictions, reducing loss of human life and livelihood.