Two Bombs Dropped Near a Hawaiian Volcano Decades Ago Were Found Intact in a Lava Tube

Mario Tama, Getty Images
Mario Tama, Getty Images

The lava tubes of the Mauna Loa Forest Reserve on the Island of Hawai‘i were created by lava flows carving out caves beneath hardened volcanic rock. Under most circumstances, they're safe to walk through, but what Kawika Singson saw on a recent hike there sent him in the opposite direction. As West Hawaii Today reports, the Kona resident discovered undetonated bombs lodged into the rock dating back as far as 1935.

Eighty-five years ago, a stream of lava from the active Mauna Loa volcano threatened to reach the nearby town of Hilo. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory founder Thomas A. Jaggar came up with a plan to protect the villagers that involved asking the U.S. Army to drop dozens of bombs near the molten rock.

While adding explosives to an already-volatile lava flow may sound misguided, his thinking was grounded in logic. The idea was that the bombs would push the lava stream off course and away from Hilo. When the bombs were dropped on December 27, 1935, they slowed the streams slightly and diverted them into the Hilo Forest Reserve. The re-routed flows eventually stopped altogether on January 2, 1936. There's still some debate over whether the bombs stopped the lava or whether the timing was a coincidence.

Similar bombings in the area were carried out for the same reasons in 1942, 1975, and 1976. Larger bombs were used in the 1970s, which means the artifacts discovered in February of this year must be from either 1935 or 1942.

Coming from a military background and knowing the history of the area, Singson immediately recognized the rusted objects embedded in the ceiling of the lava tube as bombs. After taking some photos, he retreated to safety and got in touch with the Department of Land and Natural Resources to share the exact location of the explosives. The department's Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement and Division of Forestry and Wildlife are now working on a way to dispose of the devices safely, possibly with the military's help.

[h/t West Hawaii Today]

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From Campaign Slogans to Social Movements, New Book Explores the Role Buttons Have Played Throughout History

Princeton Architectural Press/Amazon
Princeton Architectural Press/Amazon

From their early days on the campaign trail during the 1896 presidential race to their current role as a way of showing support for social causes like the LGBTQIA+ pride movement, pinback buttons have remained one of the most popular ways for people to express their values and beliefs for well over a century. And now, button experts Christen Carter, founder of Chicago’s Busy Beaver Button Company and the Button Museum, and Ted Hake, owner of Hake’s Auctions, have put their extensive knowledge of the subject into the new book Button Power: 125 Years of Saying It With Buttons ($25), a cultural journey showcasing 1500 of the most important and unique pinbacks throughout American history.

“Buttons seem like really a niche thing, but they really are very general,” Carter tells Mental Floss. “They cover so much history, and the history goes deep and wide.”

For the book, Hake and Carter—who both began collecting buttons during their respective childhoods—cover how buttons have been used to communicate messages during their 125-year history, from pinbacks featuring landmark political slogans and anti-war sentiments to others that simply proclaim a person's love of Dallas.

“[Buttons] are little windows on the world, and you can pick an avenue and head down to your heart's content,” Hake tells Mental Floss.

Some of the 20th century's most important moments had a button to go along with them.Princeton Architectural Press/Amazon

One of Hake's favorite buttons in the book doesn't feature a political or social statement—it's just a picture of a buffalo with the words “Eat Me at Bremen, Kans. June 9, 1935” emblazoned across it. But it wasn't just the design that really caught his attention; it was also its backstory.

The button's origins lie within the town of Bremen, Kansas, which, in June 1935, was celebrating both its 50th anniversary and the dedication of a marker for the defunct Oregon Trail, according to Kansas Historical Quarterly. Two weeks before the celebration, 500 townspeople gathered in Bremen to watch a buffalo get slaughtered, which was then shipped to the neighboring town’s ice house for preservation. When the big day finally arrived, the buffalo was shipped back to become the centerpiece of a community-wide feast. The button was made to spread the word for the unique event.

“Here he is on this button, inviting the good folks of Bremen to enjoy him,” Hake says. “So it is a little bit surreal, to tell you the truth.” During his research, Hake recovered this niche historical event that could’ve otherwise been easily lost to history. “At the end of the day, they capped it off with supper, a band concert, and they gave away a baby buffalo calf,” he says.

Buttons have been used to express both support and opposition to the United States's involvement in wars. Princeton Architectural Press/Amazon

While pinback button technology has not changed drastically in the past 125 years, Hake and Carter still consider their golden era to be from 1896 to 1921. “The colors are just unusual and beautiful,” Carter says. “They were able to get fine details that, [even] with digital printing, we can’t do.” Carter also enjoys how buttons were used as a communication device during the punk movement, saying, “They're important identifiers to a counter-culture movement, and they were not afraid to piss people off.”

Though the book covers buttons featuring celebrities, bands, and brands, many of the most popular ones come from the political arena and sports. Hake’s Auction just set the record for the most expensive pinback sold on September 23, 2020, with a 1916 Boston Red Sox World Series button that went for $62,980. “What makes it great is that every team member is on the button and up at 11 o’clock is one Babe Ruth. He was in his second year and was a pitcher back in those days,” Hake explains.

Even though there are buttons like the Babe Ruth ones that sell for thousands of dollars, it's still an accessible hobby for everyone. “You can start your button collection with just $10 and already have a good start. It is a good thing to collect if you don’t have much money or much space,” Carter explains.

The power of the political button eventually became fertile ground for satire in the '70s.Princeton Architectural Press/Amazon

Looking forward to the next 125 years, Carter hopes that buttons can become more eco-friendly by eliminating steel use and replacing it with recycled materials. “They haven’t changed that much in the last 125 years. They are pretty timeless in that way, and they are inexpensive, so whatever keeps them as inexpensive as possible as resources change in the next 100 years, they will probably change."

You can order Button Power: 125 Years of Saying It With Buttons on Amazon or on the Princeton Architectural Press website.

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