Posted on Apr 25, 2012 in Science & nature, Travel
Is it possible to see lava flowing from an active, erupting volcano anywhere — in person — and still live to tell the tale?
Ah — got a little bit of the lava junkie in you? Well, there is at least one place you can go to (fairly safely) satisfy that curiosity.
If you want to see real lava flowing, you just need to say aloha.
The Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island has been bubbling and gurgling molten rock since 1983 — said to be the longest non-stop eruption in the world’s known history. They call it the Pu`u `Ō `ō-Kupaianaha eruption of Kīlauea, or Pu`u `Ō `ō for short (or Pu for even shorter, according to us).
Kilauea is not just Hawaii’s youngest volcano — it’s also one of the most active in the world.
Here’s how the National Park Service explains Pu, aka Kilauea’s continual volcanic flow:
The island of Hawai’i actually consists of five volcanoes as part of a volcanic chain of islands created over a 70-million-year period by the northwestward movement of the ocean floor over a fixed hot spot in the Earth’s mantle. Molten rock rising from this hot spot, about 60 to 70 miles beneath the ocean floor, is currently fueling the continuous eruptions of Kilauea Volcano…
Of course, visiting an active volcano isn’t the safest thing to do in the world, so the nice people at the US Geological Survey put together a handy hazard map, outlining the active areas of the Kilauea eruption. (For some perspective, you might want to check out Chasing Lava: A Geologist’s Adventures at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory by Wendell Duffield.)
Fortunately, you don’t have to actually be there in person alongside a tide of molten lava to know what’s going on, because the USGS posts daily reports on the status of Kilauea volcanic activity — along with providing maps, photos and views from volcano webcams.
Most people would be happy to visit Hawaii just for the beach walks and mai-tais… but if you are the sort to seek out wild new adventures, you’ll probably think that Kilauea is truly hot stuff.
Photo from the NPS
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