For the first time in three years the lava flows from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano are pouring into the Pacific. The nine mile round trip journey is somewhat easier than in the past thanks to the leveled gravel Chain of Craters road the County of Hawaii built as an evacuation route for the lower Puna region. This emergency route is now severed by the widening flow of lava.
New land forms as the seawater cools the 2000 degree lava into brittle silica fragments that are soon churned into new black sand. A tremor underground warned our group of photographers to back away from the unstable edge of the cliff.
Reporter / Photographer: Jeff Rogers, GNI International
The USGS announcement states:
The 61G lava flow extending southeast of Puʻu ʻŌʻō towards the coastal plain on Kīlauea’s south flank remains active, and its ocean entry in the Kamokuna area continues. It is currently at least 20 m (66 ft) wide where it spills over the sea cliff, with minor expansion of the flow margins compared to the previous day. Another narrow lobe of the flow has advanced along the west margin of the main flow. Areas of incandescence remain visible in…the active lava flow field, marking lava tube skylights and areas of active lava on the pali [steep hill] and along the flow as it extends towards the coast.
As a strong caution to visitors viewing the new ocean entry (location where lava meets the sea) for Flow 61G, there are additional significant hazards besides walking on uneven surfaces and around unstable, extremely steep sea cliffs. Venturing too close to an ocean entry exposes you to flying debris created by the explosive interaction between lava and water. Also, the new land created is unstable because it is built on unconsolidated lava fragments and sand. This loose material can easily be eroded away by surf causing the new land to become unsupported and slide into the sea. Finally, the interaction of lava with the ocean creates an acidic plume laden with fine volcanic particles that can irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs.