Friday, December 7, 2012

Lava continues entering the ocean

After a week of what was a somewhat inconsistent flow of lava reaching the sea, now seems to be nearly constant.
Many people are making the one hour trek (one way) out to see this lava flow but we are also seeing more injuries and people getting lost out there. If this is your first time hiking to distant lava, I highly recommend going with one of the well established tour guiding outfits; ask around for the most acknowledged guides because their experience and safety will better ensure you having a good trip there and back.
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Lava breakouts are not just at the ocean, there are many molten ruptures taking place day and night all along and on top of the entire coastal plains; from the base of the Pulama Pali two miles to the shoreline.
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Also, back to safety; variable winds lately can switch the sulphur dioxide, degassing from the entire coastal plains, right into your lungs. Not good to breath!!. This wind switching is even more of a danger where the lava enters the sea. There we have sulphuric acids and tiny glass particles and scalding steam; all forming constantly. These things can do more than just irritate the eyes, throat and lungs-- they can quickly cause severe damage. A good respirator should be close in hand when approaching the coastal ocean entry lava zone...
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Well gee.... since I am on a safety rant, maybe it's time to also remind hikers to the lava that the most dangerous area is an ocean entry that has become established and consistent. It is these areas that are quickly forming new land under water and along the flow front above the water. These are called deltas or lava benches. This is very unstable new land that is being undermined by the sea and is very weak rock; like making cement with too much sand in the mix...
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Lava benches will break off without notice; both small sections or hundreds of feet at at time. The result can be extremely explosive; tephra, molten lava rock flying through the air in all directions, a local szunami of hot scalding water, a rush of sulphuric acid and scalding steam, and solid inland cliffs fracturing into the ocean. I am serious about this, I have witnessed this happen many times; luckily from a safe distance. These bench collapses are often small sections but as the one I recorded in Nov. 2010 (two miles east of the current entry) you can see the violent action of a quarter mile of new delta suddenly breaking off in sections in the pre-dawn light. My original blog post on the event HERE Video here below (turn your audio up :):
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Even from the County Lava Viewing area directly off the lava-severed end of Highway 130 both steam/laze by day and the same steam reflecting the red-orange lava colors by night can be seen; especially when the Trade Winds are light and variable as there are now.


  1. Wow! Thanks for this, I just found your blog and I'm posting a link to it on my blog since I'm also on Big Island. Great to find this!



  2. Hi I will be going to kalapana tommorow. Can I find a tour guide from there. Oh and your website rocks. Thanks for what you do!

  3. Warning- locals are using intimidation tactics and threatening behavior to force tourists into paying for overpriced lava tours.
    I used to live in Kalapana and for ten years enjoyed walks to view the lava up close from both Volcanoes National Park and Kalapana.
    I had been off island for a year and when I returned to the area last week a local girl asked me for a ride home- I took her happily. She lived right behind the so called security at the lava viewing area. She waived at the security guys and we drove through and I dropped her off at her house. I stepped out of my car for a minute to stretch my legs and when I turned around I witnessed the security guys letting down my tires threatening that I must pay a guide to walk out to lava. I am disgusted by this on every level. This so called security is nothing but a gimmick using intimidation tactics to bully tourists into paying for overpriced tours and whilst I understand that for some people a guide is reassuring and necessary it's not for everyone. Trying to say that by going alone you are trespassing is immoral and wrong. As a licensed real estate agent in the state of Hawaii I know that there are ways to go to the lava without going through anyone's property-the behavior of these locals deeply saddened me. I have reported the incident to the police and they are looking into it. Don't be intimated by these guys. Go to the black sand beach and walk out yourself if you don't want to pay for a guide it's your choice. Be properly equipped and use caution and enjoy this amazing feat of nature. Aloha.

  4. Elaine:
    Sorry to read of your experience at the entrance to Kalapana Gardens area... What you went through is not any way near the norm. I live right there and know all the Janguard Security people who oversee the visitors coming to see the lava flow... I have never heard of any of them ever do anything like you describe; they work for Hawaii County; overseen by the State. I also know nearly every tour guide that is currently operating tours; also none of the legit guys would intimidate you by letting the air out of tires.

    There is only one guy that lives right near the entrance gate that has been caught letting air out of tires; he is a bit deranged and has been in trouble for this before. Again, I am very sorry you had a bad experience but I must stress that it was a very rare occurrence and is definitely not what locals are doing as some regular thing. IF by chance the tire incident WAS by Jangauard Security personnel, I would for sure get ahold of both Hawaii County and State Highways people and lodge a complaint!

    Anyway, I sincerely hope your next visit is one where you receive more Aloha,

  5. So is there any way to hike out to the current flow from Kalapana without trespassing on private property?

    Considering that there used to be road before and the lava probably created new land it would be very strange if this is not possible. But on other sites people from the area claim there is absolutely no way to get to the current flow without trespassing.

    On the other hand if locals get as territorial as Elaine suggests it probably does not really matter whether there is a legal way or not. I don't want to take the lava boat (seems rather unsafe) and not to keen on paying big $$$ for a hike unless really necessary.

  6. The issue is not so much one of private property out on the raw lavascapes, but of saftey. It is wise to go with a local guide the first time out to where the lava is flowing now because there are many potential dangers that a novice will not be aware of.`

  7. Thanks Leigh,

    Well, I have not been to Kalapana yet, but on tripadvisor there are claims that people are being stopped and fined for trespassing. Also deflated tires are mentioned in a few places ;)

    I any case you are obviously correct about safety concerns. I have hiked on Lava before, but not near active flows and looked at tours before my other posting. Based on pictures from hikes and reading a bit it seemed to me that many of the tour operators, especially boat tours, are not really that focused on safety (e.g. getting quite close to the flow, benches). Volcano Discovery looks good but their dates don't fit in my schedule. Any other recommendations?

    Your recommendations of taking a respirator seems sensible, but I don't see that on the lists of things tour operators like KCT provide. What are they going to do when the wind turns?

  8. Email me Charles:

    Both the State and County can issue fines for going beyond posted areas they control. Hawaii County Civil Defense can close large tracks of land from the public, and do. Some tour operators and individuals have special permissions to hike into closed areas. Private land owners along there also have a right to refuse anyone access across their property, and often do.

    Also, this lava flow is skirting along the boundary of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. If it enters the park land then the park officials control all persons coming and going.

    So back to your comments; Lately there has been a concern for safety because so many random people have been heading out across the lavascapes day & night and getting lost and injured. Therefore, one way to curb that is by issuing fines. I am not sure who is deflating tires tho.

    Most tour operators do not bring respirators -- they simply try to avoid wind changes... but they are risking peoples lungs & eyes big-time if the group is close to an ocean entry and the wind switches quickly.

  9. I guess if too many people are stupid enough to go out there completely unprepared fines are probably the only way to keep things under control. Too bad for everybody else though.

    The hike from the NP park side certainly seems less regulated (and apparently even has some markers) but seems to long / grueling without enough experience on lava.