Maui News

Visitors Getting too Close for Comfort at Kīlauea’s Lava Flows

May 17, 2013, 9:11 AM HST
* Updated May 17, 9:16 AM
Listen to this Article
2 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00
A
A
A

Do not be misguided by the risky actions of this person (upper right), who is standing on an active lava delta that could collapse without warning, amidst a plume of superheated steam, hydrochloric acid, and tiny particles of volcanic glass.  To avoid these ocean entry hazards, HVO advises staying at least 400 m (one-quarter mile) from where lava enters the sea. Photo courtesy Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

HVO officials warn the public not to be misguided by the risky actions of others.  In this photo there is a person (upper right), who is standing on an active lava delta.  Authorities say such formations could collapse without warning.  The photo also shows a plume of superheated steam, hydrochloric acid, and tiny particles of volcanic glass, which also pose an extreme risk. To avoid these ocean entry hazards, HVO advises staying at least one-quarter mile from where lava enters the sea. Photo courtesy Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

By Maui Now Staff

The US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is cautioning the public about the hazards of approaching the ocean entry of Kīlauea’s lava flows too closely, following repeated reports of risky action.

Authorities cited a recent example of kayakers who reportedly paddled just feet from lava entering the ocean, despite recommendations that the public stay at least one-quarter mile from lava entry points.

The same group, agency officials say, allegedly went ashore, walked across new land built by the lava flow, and scooped molten lava with their paddles.

“Their actions were unsafe and cause for grave concern–not to mention, culturally insensitive,” authorities said in the agency’s Volcano Watch newsletter.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW AD

In Hawaiian tradition, ancient chants speak of Pele, the volcano goddess and her encounters as she sets out to search for a home.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW AD

HVO officials explain the cultural significance of ocean entry points saying it “reflects the tumultuous interactions that occur,” when Pele, “clashes with her sister, Namakaokaha`i, Hawaiian deity of the sea.”

Four deaths related to ocean entry hazards have already occurred at Kīlauea, according to information released by the HVO.  “Given the recently observed disregard for these hazards, we fear that tragedy will strike again,” authorities said in the document.

The HVO detailed the extreme conditions and dangers present at volcanic ocean entry points.  Information released in the Volcano Watch included the following:

  • Lava deltas are described as “extremely unstable.” Authorities say the newly formed land can collapse without warning. According to the HVO, Kīlauea’s largest delta collapse sent 44 acres of new land into the ocean. A much smaller collapse of only 1 square yard, authorities say, can be deadly.
  • When a lava deltas collapse does occur, it has the potential to send large chunks of earth long distances.  According to the HVO, “rocks the size of a small file cabinet” have been hurled 330 yards, with “fist-sized rocks” thrown as far as one-quarter mile.
  • The white plume of smoke produced when lava enters the sea is also considered extremely hazardous.  HVO officials describe the smoke as a “corrosive mixture of superheated steam, hydrochloric acid, and tiny particles of volcanic glass.”
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW AD

“With due diligence, you can safely witness lava entering the sea. Know the hazards. Keep a safe distance from the ocean entry. And, above all, do not be misguided by the risky actions of others,” authorities said.

***Supporting material courtesy Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory.

E-Mail Newsletters Receive daily or weekly updates via e-mail. Subscribe Now
News Alerts Breaking news alerts on your mobile device. Get the App

Comments

This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Maui Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments