Pele's Hair

May 04, 2009


Photographer: Mila Zinkova
Summary Author: Mila Zinkova, Jim Foster

The photo above was showing what looks to be fine strands of wire or hair amidst hardened lava was taken on the Big Island of Hawaii (on Kilauea) in August of 2008. Actually, it's not hair or wire at all; it's volcanic glass, referred to as Pele's Hair. It forms during eruptions as molten basaltic material is pulled apart or stretched. It's sufficiently light to be blown around by gusts of wind. I picked up a shard of this "hair" to examine it and wished I had not. It broke apart in my hand. When a park ranger tried to remove it, it became further embedded in my skin. A word to the wise: look but don't touch this stuff.