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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Students erupt with joy during breathtaking Hawaiian voyage

Courtesy of Kristen Sneddon
The Halema‘uma‘u Crater erupts on Jan. 16 on the Island of Hawai’i. Students were able to observe the eruption from close-up.

City College professor Kristen Sneddon teaches a geologic field studies-Hawaiian Volcanology course (ERTH 130V) every-other fall semester. To go along with the course, she also offers a once in a lifetime trip to the island of Hawaii to study and look at active volcanoes. This trip is open to any City College student there is only room for 20 attendees. 

The first excursion was held in 2017, then the next in 2019. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the semi-annual trip had to be canceled in 2021. This is the first trip back since the pandemic and to ensure safety of all students and instructors, City College brought 250 COVID-19 tests with them. 

The voyage ran for 11 days over winter break from Jan. 8-19. The promise program at City College pays for the majority of the traveling fees including food and housing. The only expense asked from students attending is air-fare. 

One Vaquero who attended this expedition is Megan MacCuish along with her dad John MacCuish. 

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“When I was a kid I really liked this volcanology book that had photos of volcanoes and my dad used to read it to me,” Megan MacCuish explained. “So it was kind of a full circle moment.” 

John MacCuish enrolled as a City College student just to be able to experience this trip with his daughter. According to Megan MacCuish, he wanted to learn about volcanoes and enjoy an educational trip to Hawaii.  

While staying on the big island, the students and instructors all stayed at a hostel. City College student David Nims, described the hostel as being very family oriented. They all got up, made breakfast, and ate their meals together.

“We stay at a hostel that’s up at the volcano, so it’s right outside of the park,” Sneddon explained. “We rent the whole place out and do our own meals, and there’s room for students and room for instructors. That’s where we stay the whole time.” 

Students learn all about the volcanic history of the island and see lava and eruptions up close. City College has many connections to scientists and officials in Hawaii to help teach students.

An instructor at University of Hawaii at Hilo, Steve Lundblad, met up with City College during their visit. Lunblad took the group out to lava tubes and rainbow falls. He also showed them his department back at the university.

“We have a couple of really good partnerships,” Sneddon said. “One is with the U.S. Geological Survey. They have scientists that come out with us and take us to fresh eruptions.”

One of the most memorable and exciting parts of the trip according to students Nims and Megan MacCuish was seeing an active volcano up close. Kīlauea was actively erupting while City College was in Hawaii, so at night the group would go to see the lava glowing.

Along with absorbing lots of information and work on this trip, students got an appropriate amount of free time to explore the island, go snorkeling, or go to the beach to soak up some sun. 

“There was a good amount of free time,” Nims said. “We had a day off and I went to the beach and the farmers market.” 

Megan MacCuish also had new experiences while on the trip and expressed how fun snorkeling was, as it was her first time trying it. 

According to Sneddon, she enjoyed getting to see her students see lava and volcanic eruptions. She described how happy it made her feel to see her students indulging in the activities and experiencing new things.

“There were a couple different days where at least one student said ‘this is the best day of my life’ and then another day they would be like ‘no this is the best day,’” Sneddon said. 

This well-rounded and informational excursion will be offered in January 2025, and the next Hawaiian volcanology course will be offered in fall 2024. 

“People should really consider coming on field courses because it’s sort of a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Sneddon expressed. “And you don’t have to be a geology major or science major to learn about the world around you.”

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