Monday, April 12, 2010

Surface flow advances further down the pali – dramatic after dark

Click on the image for a larger size.

Still about 1 ½ miles inland from the Hawaii County Viewing Area and a little over two miles from the ocean, the surface flow of lava is robust and quite easily seen from anywhere along the last mile of highway 130 and the viewing area beyond.

I took the photo above with a 300mm lens at around 8:00 PM last night from the visitor’s parking lot, which is the trailhead for the viewing area. In the photo you can see one very bright lava section, this is where a massive falls of lava broke over and down a steep pali (cliff).

This surface flow is crusting over itself as it moves down the mountain from the eruption zone, some four miles further up, forming lava tubes that insulate the hotter lava, keeping the length of the flow strong while delivering new lava to the leading edges. If this keeps up we should have a spectacular viewing of lava pouring across the coastal flats and perhaps reaching the ocean in the days, weeks ahead. The new County lava viewing area may be in a prime location for this.

At present, the flow is still over a mile and a half away from public access so binoculars are helpful to zoom in on it. And as usual, the lava is best seen after sunset. For new visitors to the area it is nice to be out there before dark to enjoy the raw lava landscape and then wait for nightfall, but you will need flashlights (oftentimes vendors there sell them). The County viewing area is open to the public from 2:00 PM to 10:00 PM, with last car allowed in at 8:00 PM; they are open seven days per week.

See my previous post for more information.


  1. Great updates! Thanks! Also, is it possible to hike closer to the flow from the viewing area? I have a plan to visit in the upcoming days! This is so helpful! thanks again!

  2. Thanks srinath.

    The present surface flow of lava is traveling across private, State and County controlled property. Hiking closer to the lava flows in areas not already designated by State authorities is dangerous and illegal. You need some form of official authorization from Hawaii County Civil Defense agencies to cross beyond the publicly designated boundaries, and such authorizations are highly limited to only historically experienced researchers, volcanologists, geologists, universities and related documentary photographers such as myself. I have been involved with research, rescue missions and documentaries on this lava flow for 13 years.

    That said, when the surface flow flows slowly across the coastal flats and nears the current viewing area, Civil defense might allow close supervised views of the lava as the did during the October 2009 flow. Look up my blog posting for October 23 through 26th.

  3. Thanks for keeping the blog - very useful updates. I have been following your updates ever since I booked my tickets to the Big Island.

  4. Thanks Leigh, We were not too lucky while we were at Kalapana. The lava flows were obscured while it was creeping through the forest. Hard luck! But, your pictures made up for what I missed! Thanks again for all the information!