Lava to the Sea

August 12, 2002


Provided by: USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Summary authors & editors: Martin Ruzek

Hollywood cannot compete with the real thing - lava pouring to the sea, an image that conjures scenes from Dante's "Inferno". Kilauea, the most active volcano on Hawaii, has been erupting constantly since 1983, drizzling over 2 cubic kilometers of lava across its flanks in a continual island building process covering over 100 square kilometers and adding over 200 hectares to Kilauea's southern shore. The current flow started on Mother's Day, May 12, when a new vent opened near the southwest base of Pu`u `O`o and has been inching steadily toward the coast. In the third week of July, the flow finally reached the sea, and began pouring into the ocean at a point known as West Highcastle and later at Wilipe`a. This view to the west shows photographers on the other side of the flow watching in awe as the 1000+ degree C magma pours into the ocean, forming new land as a bench of rock.

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