Back when I first got into doing KAP, one of the places I was just itching to fly was Volcanoes National Park. Before I even had my BBKK in-hand, I'd emailed the park superintendent and asked if I could do KAP there. The answer was a very clear, very emphatic no. I got a lot of good advice here, some of which included NOT taking that approach at places like national parks. But at that point I'd asked, I'd been answered, and to this day Volcanoes National Park is one of the more photogenic spots on the island I've never visited.
A lot has happened in the meanwhile. Now I've actually done some KAP, I've learned a lot about kite flying in general, and the volcano even started erupting. The most recent addition to this list is that I've been invited to do KAP at the park. In particular, I've been invited to do KAP over Halema`uma`u Crater, one of two active vents of the Kilauea Volcano, in order to photograph the lava lake at the bottom of the vent.
Of course I said yes!! I've been waiting for a couple of years to get a chance to fly in the park at all, and I figure getting a chance to fly over an active volcano is a once in a lifetime event. But this also raises some questions. The volcano is pumping out a whole host of sulfur compounds and acid gasses. At the very least, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, and hydrochloric acid are things I'll need to deal with. There's also a strong possibility of hot cinder and glass particles. So it's not zero risk. But the prevailing wind direction actually makes for a nice launch spot, and even with the low line angle on a Flowform will probably let me keep the kite and line above the volcanic plume. Here's a webcam that's pointing at the area I've been invited to fly:http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/cam3/
For kites I'm either using my 6' rokkaku or my Flowform 16. Both of these are nylon kites. My line is #200
Dacron, so that throws polyester into the mix. Both of these show low chemical resistance to sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid, though the tables I looked that up in didn't indicate if this was exposure to acid gas or to a liquid solution. But both also melt at low temperature, so any exposure to hot ash or hot glass particles will probably cut my line.
For the record, I do not consider any of my gear to be expendable. Willing to risk my gear hanging it over water or over rocks? Yes. Doing something that I think stands a good chance of destroying my kite, my line, or my camera? Absolutely not. So the bulk of my planning is focusing on how to mitigate risks to my gear. If I can't figure out how to do it safely, I'm not doing it. I'll CRY, but I'm not doing it.
That being said, this is the plan:
For the camera, the plan is to put a sacrificial UV filter on the end of the lens, and to bag the whole rig with a 2-gallon ziplock bag all the way up to the pivot axis. My rig has Brooks's pan gear reduction on it, so the pan axis is a bolt rather than a servo. I may swap the bolt out for a stainless bolt for the sake of the rust this could cause. In any case I should be able to get a pretty good seal on the bolt. I don't know how the Picavet lines will hold up if exposed to a gas cloud, so I was planning on adding a stainless safety tether between the top of the Picavet and the kite line. So long as the kite and line don't fall apart, this should let me get my rig down even if I have gear failure with the rig.
I'm interested in taking pictures in all directions, but if in doubt I'm going to skip the BBKK rig for my lightweight ortho rig. The rangers who are arranging all this want pictures of the lava pool more than anything else, so the ortho rig should do fine. But given the choice I'd like to be able to do vertical panoramas from that vantage point. If there's any problem bagging the BBKK rig, though, the ortho rig is a lot easier to make airtight.
I don't plan to launch a kite unless I know there's good wind and that my line angle keeps my kite and line well clear of the plume. I also don't plan to launch if there's an active fountain in the crater. These can throw hot lava and glass WAY up into the air. (I'm guessing I won't be allowed to go down to the crater's edge if this is happening, anyway.) Other than this I really don't know how to ensure the safety of my kite or line.
What else should I be thinking about? I'm guessing this is going to happen in the next couple of weeks, possibly next weekend, so I don't have a lot of time to prep and test changes to my gear. But now I'm wishing I'd made that Tupperware pendulum rig for photographing whales!!
Anything anyone can think of, no matter how wild, please let me know. I'm not out on a limb on this one, I'm dangling in space.