January 5, 2010 – Kalapana, Hawaii
VIDEO by David Corrigan
Geologist Tim Orr knows the changing landscape of the Kilauea volcano lava flow like the back of his hand. But that doesn’t mean the two mile hike to and from the Waikupanaha lava tube is easy.
Members of the local media found that out first hand, as the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory offered a special hike through the “off limits” section of the lava field surrounding the scenic ocean entry in Kalapana.
Orr, along with HVO scientists Janet Babb and Matt Patrick, guided the exhausted journalists over the jagged, uneven terrain en route to a closer view of the ocean entry. Thousands visit the County run portion of the Kalapana lava viewing area every week, but very few (legally) make it past the barrier to get within a short distance of the ocean entry.
That’s because the trail to get closer crosses dangerous lava tubes and enters a hazard zone where lithic blasts have been known to launch huge rocks hundreds of yards inland. The liability also includes the issue of crossing over privately owned lots, now covered by Pele’s lava.
On this evening (Saturday night) a deflation-inflation event reduced the amount of magma pouring into the ocean, which made for a less fantastic plume, but perhaps a better view of the trickling lava. The only way to get closer would be from the lava boat tours which are allowed to operate in the vicinity.
In this video, Orr explains the geological process beneath his very feet, as he stands over the Big Island’s only active lava tube system.