Much of Hawai’i Volcanoes Volcanoes National Park including the Kīlauea Visitor Center is comprised of lush rain forest. A mere two and a half miles from The Kīlauea Visitor Center is Jaggar Museum, the gateway to the Kaū Desert Wilderness.
In 1908, an earthquake killed 125,000 people near Mt. Etna in Italy. With this disaster, Jaggar declared that “something must be done” to support systematic, ongoing studies of volcanic and seismic activity. He traveled to Hawai’i in 1909 at his own expense and after a lecture on his Martinique expedition in Honolulu, Jaggar was approached by Lorrin A. Thurston, a prominent Honolulu attorney and businessman. Thurston believed that Kīlauea was a prime site for a permanent volcano observatory. The question of money was brought up and within a year, Thurston and other businessmen raised the financial backing for the Hawai’i Volcano Research Association. A small observing station was set up on the rim of Halema’uma’u crater. In 1912, support was forthcoming from M.I.T. alumnus and construction of the new Hawai’i Volcano Observatory (HVO) began. Jaggar remained Director of HVO until 1940. The present site of the museum was built in 1985. The Thomas A. Jaggar Museum in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is named for him.