Flowing to the ocean

Lava from Kilauea's Pu'u O'o flow.

At twilight, lava flows down Pūlama pali while, at the top of the hill, a smaller breakout can be seen. In the center are two onlookers, illuminated by the glow of flashlights.

Lava from Kilauea's Pu'u O'o flow sets fire to shrubs and trees.

In the early evening, the flow descends the pali, starting fires in surviving stands of trees and shrubs.

In April, I posted here about a trip last year to see lava bubbling up at Kilauea Volcano. That activity was in the Overlook vent of Halema’uma’u Crater. On May 24, Kilauea’s other active vent, Pu’u O’o, began a new breakout of lava toward the southeast. This is a path that flows have taken many times before. The first active lava I saw was back in 2010 when such a flow reached the sea and put on a spectacular show.

This May 24 flow is also headed to the sea. By June 28 it had reached Pūlama pali, a steep slope leading down to the coastal plain. On July 7 it was less than three-quarters of a mile from the ocean, and creeping slowly over previous flows that have taken this path. That’s when I went down to take a look and took these photos.

At its current rate of progress, the flow will reach the ocean in a week. But it could speed up or stop, so it’s really a case of wait and see.

There is one note of irony. I have a map from 1975 showing the road that ran along this coast before being covered by various flows from the volcano. In 2014, a flow from the Pu’u O’o vent headed east, threatening the town of Pahoa and the main highway into that corner of the island. One response to that situation was to bulldoze an emergency highway along the coast, at a cost of $10 million or so, following the route of the old road. It was never used as that flow stopped short of Pahoa. If the current flow travels another a half mile or so, the emergency highway will be covered again without ever being used. Such is life.

For more information about Kilauea Volcano and it current eruption, go to hvo.wr.usgs.gov/activity/kilaueastatus.php.

The glow of lava from Kilauea's Pu'u O'o flow reflects off the clouds.

As the light fades, the glow from the flow reflects off passing clouds. The white lights are the flashlights of people hiking to or from the flow.

Kilauea's Pu'u O'o flow glows brightly as darkness falls.

The lava flow burns brightly as darkness falls.

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