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Lava Flow Still Active But Ocean Entry Stops

Posted November 29, 2012, 04:29 PM HST

A recent nightime view of the Halemaumau Crater from the Jagger Museum overlook. Photo courtesy of Mark Wasser/National Park Service.

Pele giveth, and apparently Pele has taketh away, as least for now.

After about an 11-month absence, lava from Kilauea volcano resumed flowing into the ocean last Saturday.

However, the amount was never significant, judging from the size of the steam plume created by the mixture of lava and seawater, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported.

And the relatively feeble ocean entry ceased sometime late Monday or early Tuesday.

HVO said two lobes of the flow originating from the Pu`u `O`o vent remain active on the coastal plain, near the boundary of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

But for the most part, their remoteness makes them visible only from the air.

This map prepared by scientists from the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory shows the status of the most recent flow (in red) as of Nov. 20 (click to enlarge).

However, the observatory’s scientists said under favorable weather conditions, the flows can be seen from the county’s viewing area in Kalapana.

That viewing area is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. No vehicles are allowed in after 8 p.m.

Visitors to the area drive past the end of Highway 130 and onto a temporary road over older lava flows to a parking area about two-thirds of a mile away. From there it is about a 10-minute walk to a viewing area.

For more information, call the county’s lava hotline at 961-8093.


Because of safety issues and concerns about trespassing on private property, the public is not currently allowed to venture closer to active lava at least two miles further away. However, flows are sometimes visible on the pali above the coastal plain.

That means the only way to view nearby eruptive activity is an aerial tour, or commercial hiking tours of dubious legality.

The county does not condone commercial tours that expose customers to unnecessary dangers or take them across private properties without the landowners’ permission. And except for the right-of-way of Highway 130, which is difficult to identify under many feet of lava, most of the Kalapana area remains privately owned.

But volcano-watchers can usually get their fix at Halemaumau, the summit crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Park officials note that during daytime hours, the plume of volcanic gas reminds observers of the lava lake which is currently about 100 feet below the floor of Halemaumau.

But most visitors prefer the view after dark, when the lava lights up the sky.

Park officials say many visitors still make the drive to the end of Chain of Craters Road, hoping to hike out to the active flow. But that is not encouraged by park personnel, who note that it involves a grueling trek of at least five miles each way over uneven and often unsteady hardened lava.

“We don’t want people to be disappointed, and we especially don’t want people to get hurt,” Chief Ranger Talmadge Magno said in a statement. “While the historic flows covering the end of Chain of Craters Road are well worth a visit during the day, hiking all the way out to the ocean entry from the park side and leaving the park to cross private party isn’t something we recommend.

“The best and closest place to observe a volcanic eruption within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park at present is from Jaggar Museum overlook, and other vantage points at the summit of Kīlauea that provide views of Halema‘uma‘u Crater,” Magno said.


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