29th Anniversary of Kilauea’s Eruption

Lava has been erupting from Hawaiian volcano for nearly three decades & still flowing strong

My friend Jessica Ferracane, who was not working for the National Park Service when I saw her in June but is doing so now, just reminded her Facebook friends that today is the 29th anniversary of the beginning of Kīlauea volcano’s east rift eruption. It has been going on since then. Volcanoes present nature’s most spectacular light show, especially at night when red lava glows in the inky blackness. You certainly don’t get a cake and candles for a volcano!

When the Pu’u ‘O’o-Kupaianaha eruption began on January 3, 1983, it was Kīlauea’s 55th documented eruption going back some six centuries, including 34 “eruption cycles” in the last 200 or so years. Madame Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, is believed to dwell on (in?) Kīlauea, and native chants and oral traditions tell of the many eruptions instigated by an angry Pele. She must be very, very angry these days, yet in her anger, she has made the Big Island of Hawaii even bigger — adding something like 500 acres of lava fields. And January, it seems, is Volcano Awareness Month. Who knew?

According to the Park Service, “During the first three years of the current eruption, spectacular lava fountains spewed episodically from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent. Since then, nearly continuous lava effusion has built a vast plain that stretches from the east rift to the sea. This past year has seen many changes, including fissure eruptions and the collapse and refilling of the vent’s lava lake.”

A recent night shot of the Kīlauea lava flow. (Natl Park Service photo)

Lava again reached the ocean on December 9, 2011, and continues to flow within the National Park boundaries at a location that USGS scientists have named the West Ka’ili’ili ocean entry. It is possible to from the bottom of Chain of Craters Road for about four miles one-way across an uneven flow field. Several streams of lava are pouring into the ocean, providing dramatic views, but conditions can change at any time. An easier was to see the lava flow close-up is via Lava Ocean Adventures’ lava boat tours to see, hear and feel the heat.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park commemorated the anniversary this evening with a presentation by Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Tim Orr, reviewing highlights from the past 29 years and discussing recent developments on Kīlauea’s east rift zone. It was part of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes’ ongoing free After Dark in the Park series. Wish I could have been thee. Maybe I’d have brought a cake after all!