Punchbowl is a descriptive term frequently applied to broad-bottomed depressions in the landscape, often to steep-walled features that suggest this serving vessel on a superhuman scale: the work of gods or, more often in the American West, the doing of the Devil. Landscape features bearing the name Devils Punchbowl include a collapsed and flooded sea cave on the coast of Oregon and a shallow basin in Devils Punchbowl County Park outside Los Angeles, created by slippage of the San Andreas Fault. Punchbowl also describes a type of volcanic crater: a broad cone with a saucer-shaped interior, built of ash that has weathered and cemented together into a rocky material known as tuff. Punchbowl Crater above Honolulu, the prototype, was formed about 250,000 years ago, during a late stage of vulcanism after several hundred thousand years of dormancy had allowed the island to erode into ridges and valleys. Magma pushing up through a low region encountered groundwater and erupted in explosions of ash and steam. The Hawaiian name for the crater is Paowaina, “Hill of Placing,” and it once served as a burial site for chiefs. Now Punchbowl National Cemetery fills its broad interior.

Pamela Frierson