Flowing lava of Pu’u O’o

I just wanted to say that I am still among the living ones and having a great time. I have spent the past 10 days or so in Hawai’i (The Big Island). I saw there lots of interesting geology. I stayed at campsites overnight and had no Internet. So unfortunately I was not able to post anything there but I hope to make it up later when I am home again. But it will take some more time because I am not finished yet. Currently I am in O’ahu at a hostel where internet is available and I can start to show you my pictures taken in Hawai’i. But soon I will go to California for about ten days and during that time I am most likely just as disappeared as I’ve been during the past two weeks. I am not even sure that there is a mobile phone coverage in areas I plan to visit like Death Valley and several other interesting but remote places.

One of the reasons to visit Hawai’i was to see living, moving and glowing lava up-close. Hawaii is probably the best place in the world to do this. I did achieve this although it was much more difficult than I imagined. Lava is currently flowing in a remote place far away from any houses or roads. To get there, I needed to hike over four miles of rough lava fields. It was really wonderful experience and I plan to write about my adventures on the lava field in a separate post when I have more time. Right now just a couple of pictures of glowing lava which comes from the Pu’u O’o vent on the southeastern flank of Kilauea. Lava is flowing there mostly in a lava tunnel but in some places it breaks onto the surface for us to enjoy the sight.

It may be difficult to believe but it is easy to accidentally wander onto active lava flow. Its upper crust is solid. It loses heat rapidly and is only warm to the touch. It insulates the red hot interior well from the cooling atmosphere.

In some places flowing viscous mass of basaltic melt breaks free and flows as a thick tongue of lava.

Glowing pahoehoe lava flow

Note how rapidly lava loses heat and turns black. It happens about 30 seconds after flowing out onto the surface.

Some flows were pretty impressive. This glowing river of lava is more than 5 meters wide.

I am obviously satisfied with this. I made it although the trip was difficult and hazardous. Solidified lava flows are often hollow inside and falling through it may result in a serious injury. Active lava flows are not particularly hazardous in Hawai’i but volcanic gas that also comes out of the ground with lava is a grave threat. I knew what I was doing although at times I sensed that things are not under my control as much as I wanted. Especially because of gas. I had to search for a good place where there is lava but relatively small amount of gas for some time and always had to make sure that wind was blowing the gas away from me.

Solidifying basaltic lava flow.

This is how new pahoehoe forms. Beautiful!

I stayed well after the sunset to admire the glowing lava field in the darkness. And then moved upwind about half a kilometer to find some place to sleep. It was impossible to hike back in the darkness because my car was about 7 kilometers away.

Here are some videos of lava flows I took that day: Videos of flowing lava and longer overview of different lava flow types.

7 comments to Flowing lava of Pu’u O’o

  • Pihel Sarv

    Amazing! Geologist’s dream pictures I guess 🙂 Many awesome experiences for the rest of your trip!

  • April F. Ools

    Photoshopped much?

  • Ann

    I’ve been wondering where you’ve been. It looks like you are having a wonderful trip. I love the pictures. Stay safe. I’m looking forward to your other posts.

  • Raquel Antunes

    Fantastic photos! You are living one of my dreams 🙂 …see a volcanic eruption.

  • Tank

    That’s a great adventure. I did that last summer with on a field trip with the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Our Volcanology/Igneous Petrology professor hooked us up with the HVO and some USGS folks leaving the parking lot at 2 or 3 in the morning. We got to the site right at sun-up and it was amazing! With a good headlamp you can get in and out in the dark, but if you don’t know where you are going (fortunately, Frank did) then it is a real dangerous trip. I got some similar photos, and boy it’s hard to imagine just how hot it is until you are standing next to it! In the same day we drove from there down to south point and the green sand beach, then back to our house in Volcano. I hope your day was a little more relaxing. Thanks for sharing.

  • elouaty otman

    that is wondorful amazing