Pahoehoe Break-Out

September 03, 2008

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Provided by: Heather Renyck, White Mountains Regional High School
Summary Author and Editor: Heather Renyck

The Hawaiian volcano Kilauea began erupting in 1983 with what has been called the Pu`u `O`o-Kupaianaha Eruption. Pu`u` O`o is the name given to a cinder-and-spatter cone built by lava fountains early in the eruption. A lava shield named Kupaianaha was created by the eruption in 1986. This photo shows a break-out channel in a pahoehoe lava (basaltic lava that has a smooth, ropy surface) flow about a mile or so away from the Royal Gardens subdivision in the southeastern region of the Big Island of Hawaii. This particular lava flow began in November of 2007 with an event called the Thanksgiving Eve Breakout (TEB). Royal Gardens was the product of questionable real estate practices in the late 1950s when officials and developers laid out and sold land on the volcano, particularly to mainlanders who bought the land sight-unseen. In February 2008, the collapse of a rootless shield (between the Pu'u 'O'o vent and Kupaianaha shield) allowed lava to flow through the Royal Gardens subdivision causing the evacuation of all the residents. Many homes were destroyed, and access roads were covered with the fresh lava flow, which reached the ocean in the morning hours of March 6, 2008.

Just a few days before this photograph was taken on March 1, I walked a little over two miles (3 km) from an access road to obtain a close-up view of an active lava flow for the first time in my life. It's difficult to find the right words to adequately express this awe inspiring experience -- the creation of new lands.