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Volcano Overflight: Pele Giveth & Taketh Away

January 7, 2017, 2:29 PM HST (Updated January 7, 2017, 2:33 PM) · 0 Comments
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Video by Mick Kalber, Tropical Visions Video, Jan. 5, 2017
Kī hō‘alu (Hawaiian slack key) audio courtesy of Hilo’s own Ben Kaili

Paradise Helicopter crew members experienced extremely voggy conditions in East Hawai‘i on Thursday morning, Jan. 5, 2017,  with obscured their view throughout the flight.

Regardless, they were able to capture images of a very active lake within the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent.

“This is the clearing house where lava first surfaces in the vent before exiting to, not only the ongoing 61g flow, but also, the still-active additional flow just to the northeast,” said Tropical Visions Videographer Mick Kalber.

“Pele still breaks out on the eastern lobe frequently, but continues overplating and widening rather than making much progress downslope,” Kalber continued. “It is now a bit over a mile from the vent. The main flow continues unabated, dumping tons of lava into the Pacific Ocean at Kamokuna just inside Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.”

The big news of this week was the collapse of the lava delta, which was nearly completely swallowed up by the Pacific Ocean on New Year’s Eve.

The 25 acre Kamokuna delta collapsed into the sea on New Year’s Eve, taking another four acres of land with it. Using the end of the emergency access road as a reference point, one can see the significant amount of land area that disappeared into the sea. Photo courtesy: ExtremeExposure.

Kalber reported that a huge portion of the shoreline to the east—not even directly connected to the lava delta—collapsed as well, creating a huge crescent shaped bay about two hundred yards east of the ocean entry.

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“Today’s plume was ascending directly upward… no lava was visible, but sizable littoral [near the ocean] explosions occurred repeatedly at the ocean entry site,” said Kalber.

“Skylights at the base of Pulama Pali remain open, revealing Pele’s liquid rock as it flows through the tube system to the new lava delta some six miles from the vent,” said Kalber. “The lava delta was 25 acres large, and nearly the entire bench sank into the water. We are restricted to 1,000 feet from the ocean entry, but tour boats continue to go very close to the active ocean entry. Why that is allowed is a mystery.”

New black sand beaches continue to form along the coast near the ocean entry. The hot lava’s interaction with the cold seawater shatters the flow into bits that are then tumbled into submission, Kalber said.

The viewing area has re-opened, after its closure for several days following the collapse.

To reach the new lava viewing area within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park from the east (Kalapana-side), visitors must hike about 4.2 miles one way along the gravel emergency access road. This entrance is open daily from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. From the park, or west side, visitors can hike out from the Coastal Ranger Station at the end of Chain of Craters Road, about five miles one-way. About one mile of the hike goes inland of the gas plume over hardened, uneven lava flows. The park entrance is open 24 hours a day.

Hikers need to be prepared for a long trek. Wear sturdy closed-toe shoes or boots, gloves to protect the hands, and long pants to protect against lava rock abrasions. Carry plenty of water (three to four quart/liters per person). Wear sunblock, sunglasses and a hat. Visitors who plan to stay after dark need a flashlight and/or headlight with extra batteries.

Download hiking tips here.

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