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31 Years and Counting: Today Marks New Milestone in Kīlauea’s Continuing Eruption

January 3, 2014

Today marks the 31st anniversary of Kīlauea’s ongoing Puʻu ʻŌʻō eruption. This eruption ranks as the most voluminous outpouring of lava from the volcano’s East Rift Zone in the past five centuries. The eruption in Kilauea’s middle east rift zone started with a fissure eruption on January 3, 1983, and continued with few interruptions at Puʻu ʻŌʻō Cone, or temporarily from vents within a few kilometers to the east or west. A fissure eruption on the upper east flank of Puʻu ʻŌʻō Cone on Sept. 21, 2011, drained the lava lakes and fed a lava flow (Peace Day flow) that advanced southeast through the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision to the ocean within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park in early December 2011. The flows stalled and re-entered the ocean starting on November 24, 2012 until activity started to decline and the ocean entry ceased in August 20, 2013; the flow was dead by early November, 2013. The Kahauale‘a flow, which started from the spatter cone/lava lake at the northeast edge of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater floor in mid-January 2013, was dead by late April, but a new flow (informally called Kahauale‘a 2) became active in the same general area in early May 2013. In general, activity waxes with inflation and wanes with deflation.

Map showing the Kahaualeʻa 2 flow in relation to the eastern part of the Big Island as of December 26, 2013. The active front of the Kahaualeʻa 2 flow was spreading into the forest 6.3 km (3.9 miles) northeast of Puʻu ʻŌʻō. The area of the Kahaualeʻa 2 flow as of December 6 is shown in pink, while widening of the flow as of December 26 is shown in red. Older lava flows are distinguished by color: episodes 1–48b flows (1983–1986) are shown in gray; episodes 48c–49 flows (1986–1992) are pale yellow; episodes 50–55 flows (1992–2007) are tan; episodes 58–60 flows (2007–2011) are pale orange, and episode 61 flows (2011–2013) are reddish orange. The active lava tube is shown with a yellow line. (USGS)

The eruption can be roughly divided in to five time periods. From 1983 to 1986, a series of short-lived lava fountains built a cinder-and-spatter cone later named Puʻu ʻŌʻō. In 1986, the eruption shifted 3 km (1.8 mi) northeastward along Kīlauea’s east rift zone, where a nearly continuous outpouring of lava built a broad shield, Kupaianaha, and sent flows to the coast for more than five years.

In 1992, the eruption moved back uprift and new vents opened on the southwestern flank of Puʻu ʻŌʻō. Over the next 15 years, nearly continuous effusion of lava from these vents sent flows to the ocean, mainly within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. The most significant change during the 1992–2007 interval was a brief uprift fissure eruption and the corresponding collapse of Puʻu ʻŌʻō’s west flank in January 1997.

May 1998: View into skylight shows lava cascading down a steep slope. (USGS)

In June 2007, an hours-long, unwitnessed eruption uprift of Puʻu ʻŌʻō led to renewed collapse within the cone and a brief hiatus in activity. When the eruption resumed in July 2007, new vents opened between Puʻu ʻŌʻō and Kupaianaha, sending flows to Kīlauea’s southeastern coast until early 2011.

This activity was terminated by another short-lived eruption uprift of Puʻu ʻŌʻō in March 2011. Activity at Puʻu ʻŌʻō then resumed with a brief breakout from the western flank of the cone in August 2011, followed by the opening of a new, persistent vent on Puʻu ʻŌʻō’s northeast flank in September 2011. Flows from this latter vent remained active on Kīlauea’s southeastern flank into 2013.

At this writing, the public is prohibited from hiking to Puʻu ʻŌʻō’s Kahauale‘a 2 lava flows on foot. These flows are within the State of Hawai‘i’s Natural Area Reserve, which is closed to the public. The closest that hikers can get to Puʻu ʻŌʻō from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is by hiking seven miles (one-way) to the Nāpau Crater overlook — a wonderful day hike, or choose to camp overnight. Aerial tours are one way to see the current eruptive activity from Puʻu ʻŌʻō close-up, but the best eruption viewingon foot continues to be from Kīlauea’s “other” eruption, happening at Halema‘uma‘u crater within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

For more in-depth details of the past 31 years, see the following links:

For current eruption information, visit the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory:

January 1983: Initial eruptive fissure on the east rift zone of Kilauea. (USGS)

Volcano Awareness Month

January 2014 is Hawaiʻi Island’s 5th annual “Volcano Awareness Month.” Today, as in the past, awareness is essential for us to live in harmony with the volcanoes that are our island home.

With this in mind, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, in cooperation with Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, and Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense, will provide a month-long series of programs about the volcanoes on which we live:

“At-a-Glance” Program Schedule

Program descriptions:

RIMPAC Nations Arrive at Pearl Harbor

June 29, 2012

PEARL HARBOR (June 28, 2012) The Japanese Self Defense Force ship JS Shirane (DDH 143), of the, transits the waters of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam during the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise. Twenty-two nations, 42 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012 exercise scheduled June 29 to Aug. 3, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released)

PEARL HARBOR (June 29, 2012) The Russian Navy ship Admiral Panteleyev transits the waters of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam during the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released)

PEARL HARBOR (June 29, 2012) Canadian Navy warship HMCS Algonquin (DDG 283 ) arrives for exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012. (Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force photo by Photographer LS Tetsuya Sekino).

PEARL HARBOR (June 28, 2012) Friends and family members of Sailors wave to the Anzac class frigate HMAS Perth (FFH 157), of the Royal Australian Navy, transits the waters of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam during the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released)

PEARL HARBOR (June 27, 2012) While entering port, Sailors aboard amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) man the rails and render honors as they pass the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Missouri Memorial. Essex is deployed in support of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sandra M. Palumbo/Released)

PEARL HARBOR (Jun. 28, 2012) Beach goers observe the Chilean Navy frigate Almirante Lynch (FF 07) pull into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in support of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012 exercise.

PEARL HARBOR (June 28, 2012) The Royal Australian navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Perth (FFH 157) transits the waters of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam during the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise. RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released)

PEARL HARBOR (June 27, 2012) U.S. Marines disembark the Mexican navy tank landing ship ARM Usumacinta (A-412) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. (Royal Canadian photo by Master Corporal Marc-Andre Gaudreault/Released)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (June 27, 2012) Mexican Marines on board tank landing ship ARM Usumacinta (A-412) watch the approach at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Royal Canadian Photo by : MCpl Marc-Andre Gaudreault, Canadian Forces Combat Camera

PEARL HARBOR (June 27, 2012) Republic of Singapore Navy ship RSS Formidable (68) arfives in Pearl Harbor to take part in exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012. (Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Takahiro Ito)

PEARL HARBOR (Jun. 28, 2012) The Chilean Navy frigate Almirante Lynch (FF 07) pulls into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in support of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012 exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released)

PEARL HARBOR (June 27, 2012) JS Shirane (DDH 143), of the Japanese Self Defense Force, transits the waters of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam during the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released)

PEARL HARBOR (June 29, 2012) The Russian Navy Udaloy-class destroyer RFS Admiral Panteleyev (BPK 548) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise 2012.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean Furey/Released)

Before the Ironman…

October 1, 2011

The beginning of the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii draws athletes from around the world to a place with a history of “extreme” sports. (NASA Photo)

On Saturday, October 8 the Big Island of Hawaii will host the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship. Nearly 2,000 competitors from across the planet will gather for what many consider to be the ultimate triathlon, consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike race and a 26.2 mile marathon.  Though this event began in the late 1970’s, this sort of physical exhibition and competition is nothing new to the Hawaiian Islands.

Imagine traveling 70mph down lava slopes on a sled about 3 to 6 inches wide!

For centuries, extreme “sports” were the norm for Hawaii’s warrior and chiefly classes. For example, it was said that a skilled Hawaiian runner could circumnavigate the Big Island in about 8 days (250 miles across rugged lava coastline). Warriors could travel down steep lava hills at up to 70mph on a holua sled. A visiting chief would be met with up to a dozen spears being hurled at him, requiring catching, dodging and deflecting all of them at once. During the makahiki season (Autumn), warriors would compete in many athletic events that included stone rolling, throwing spears and distance running. Even for normal commerce and communication, men could paddle over 100 miles over the open ocean to the other islands. Of course, the most recognized Hawaiian sport, surfing, was a dangerous and arduous competitive sport.

Hawaiian warriors and chiefs took part in many “extreme” sports in ancient times. (Photo used by permission of Kai Markell)

Probably the one historical figure that epitomized this “extreme” sportsmanship of the Hawaiian culture was Kamehameha the Great. As a young boy, he was known to carry a large round stone through the valleys of Kohala. When he was about 20 years old, he turned over the massive Naha Stone in Hilo, which weighs about 2 tons (the stone now sits in front of the public library in Hilo).  His physical prowess was unmatched during his lifetime.

As a park ranger in the historical National Parks of the Big Island of Hawaii, it seems very fitting that every year the Ironman triathletes traverse the same rugged landscape and swim the same waters where Kamehameha and his fellow warriors and chiefs competed. The swim portion of the triathlon begins in front of Kamehameha’s Ahu`ena Heiau in Kailua-Kona (where he died in 1819). The bike portion of the race parallels the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, taking the competitors up to Kohala, the birthplace of Kamehameha and through Pu`ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, where Kamehameha began his conquest of the Islands in 1791. The marathon portion passes Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, where traditional extreme sports took place in the form of holua and surfing. In many ways, the Ironman competitors are retracing the footsteps of the ancient athletes that came before them.

U.S. Navy SEAL Mitch Hall, assigned to Naval Special Warfare Center, tests his racing bike in Kona, Hawaii one day prior to the Ironman Triathlon, Oct. 20, 2006. (U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY PETTY OFFICER 3RD CLASS BEN A. GONZALES)

So whether you are a triathlete or not, remember as the Ironman gets going that our modern competitions here in the Islands are a continuation of centuries of such activities. And also remember, you don’t have to be a triathlete to get into the Great Outdoors! Mahalo for stopping by today…Aloha!

Latest Eruption Video & Images

August 9, 2011

(CLICK IMAGE TO WATCH MOVIE!) This Quicktime movie shows views from today’s overflight of the vents on the lower west flank of Pu`u `Ō `ō. There are several vents, topped by spatter cones, that are feeding narrow, fast-moving flows that feed into a broad area of ponded lava. (USGS)


This view, looking east, shows the broad area of ponded lava fed by two main channels originating from several individual vents. The fume-filled crater of Pu`u `Ō `ō is in the background. The darker lava in the foreground, at the bottom of the image, is from the March 2011 Kamoamoa eruption. (USGS)


One of the more vigorous vents, in the lower left, is topped by a tall (6 m, or 20 ft, high) spatter cone. The flow from this vent cascades down several steps, joining the flow from two other nearby vents, before flowing under a small bridge and into the broad area of ponded lava to the west. (USGS)


Pu`u `Ō `ō crater, following the collapse of the crater floor on August 3, has been filled with thick fume. A very tiny flow, visible only with a thermal camera, was active on the crater floor. (USGS)


This thermal image, looking southwest, shows the very small flow, at the bottom of the image, active in the bottom of Pu`u `Ō `ō crater. In the upper right, the active flows on the lower west flank of Pu`u `Ō `ō can be seen. (USGS)

Awesome Timelapse Movies of Kilauea

August 5, 2011

(CLICK IMAGE TO WATCH!) This Quicktime movie shows a timelapse sequence taken from the webcam on Pu`u `Ō `ō’s north rim. The movie starts just after noon on August 3, with the typical westward flow of lava within the perched lava lake. Just after 2pm, breakouts start on the flank of the perched lava lake and the lake begins to drop. Remarkably, while the lake drops the circulation is maintained, until the lake finally disintegrates. By the end of the sequence, the lava lake is gone and floor has dropped about 80 meters (260 ft). Around 3:15pm, you can see a portion of the rim, at the very right end of the image, collapse into the crater. (USGS)

(CLICK IMAGE TO WATCH!) This Quicktime movie shows a timelapse sequence taken from a thermal camera on the south rim of Pu`u `Ō `ō, beginning just before noon on August 3. Just after 2pm, the lava lake and surrounding floor abruptly drop. As the lava lake drops, solidified portions of the crater floor slide into the fluid lava. By the end of the sequence, the floor of the crater is composed of only hot rubble and inclined blocks of the pre-existing crater floor. The temperature scale is degrees Celsius. (USGS)

(CLICK IMAGE TO WATCH!) This Quicktime movie shows views of the numerous spattering vents during today’s overflight. Spattering at each source is creating spatter cones and ramparts, and the lava issuing from the individual vents is creating a series of narrow streams which join to feed a broader flow channel.

(CLICK TO IMAGE TO WATCH!) This Quicktime movie shows activity at some of the individual vents, which are each distinct in their behavior. (USGS)


This thermal image, looking south, shows the individual vents feeding distinct channels. (USGS)


This thermal image, looking west, shows the rubble-filled crater of Pu`u `Ō `ō in the foreground, with the active flow field in the top half of the image. (USGS)

Mark Your Calendars!

July 9, 2011

It’s almost time for this year’s Hawaiian Cultural Festival at Pu`ukohola Heiau National Historic Site!

August 13-14, 2011

Mark your calendars for the 39th Annual Ho`oku`ikahi Establishment Day Hawaiian Cultural Festival at Pu`ukohola Heiau National Historic Site on the Big Island of Hawaii!

The public is invited to experience Royal Court ceremonies, traditional warrior exhibitions, cultural demonstrations, traditional crafts, music, games, double-hulled canoe rides, traditional food tasting and many more activities.

The Royal Court, Ho`okupu (Gift-Giving Ritual) and Sham battle will take place on Saturday, August 13 from 6:30am-10:00am.

Ever ride in a traditional double hulled canoe? Join us for free rides along the beautiful Kohala Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island.

NĀ KE‘ENA HANA (Cultural Workshops and Activities 10:30am-3:00pm Sat. & Sun.)

Hula Kāhiko (Ancient Hula), Lei Haku Ame Lei Wili (Ancient Lei Making), Hana Kapa Kuiki (Quilting), Ulana, Lauhala (Lauhala Weaving), ‘Ohe Hanu Ihu (Nose Flute), Kūkūweke La‘ī (Rain Cape), Hana ‘Upena Kiloi (Net Making), Ku‘i ‘Ai (Poi Pounding), Holo Wa‘a (Canoe Rides), Hana Hū (Spinning Tops)l, ‘Ohe Kāpala Ki‘i (Bamboo Stamp, Designs), Pahu (Drums), Ulana Lau Niu (Frond Plaiting), Kahili (Fly Brush), Nī‘au Pūlumi (Hawaiian Broom), Ipu (Gourd, making), Hana Pala‘ie (Loop and Ball Making), Makau (Fishhook), Kumu La‘au (Woodwork), Ku‘i, Wauke (Tapa Pounding), Awa (Traditional Drink)

The following are photographs were taken by Kai Markell at the August 14, 2010 ceremonies at the Bicentennial Ho`oku`ikahi Hawaiian Cultural Festival at Pu`ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and are used by permission.

A Woman Challenges the Goddess of the Volcano

March 16, 2011

Could you imagine walking up to the edge of a molten lake of lava to prove a point? That is exactly what happened in 1824…

We thought we’d share one of the most celebrated accounts in Hawaii’s modern history that occured between a courageous woman and the legendary goddess of the volcano, Pele.

Some of the most important events in Hawaiian history were undertaken by powerful women. In 1819, Queen Ka`ahumanu overthrew the age-old kapu system of rigid laws and for years to come exerted her influence on the successors of her late husband Kamehameha the Great. Later in the mid-1800’s, Queen Emma began the first hospital for her people, which still operates to this day as the Queen’s Medical Center. It is understandable that women like Ka`ahumanu and Emma would be held up as an example of greatness by the Hawaiian people, though their names remain little known to most outsiders. However, another Hawaiian woman gained worldwide notoriety because of her deeds.

In 1824, just a few years after the first Protestant missionaries had arrived, Chiefess Kapiolani marched down with many Hawaiian onlookers and stood defiantly at the edge of a rolling, churning lake of molten lava in what is now Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. For generations, Halema`uma`u was believed to be the home of the powerful, and often temperamental, goddess Pele.

As Kapiolani stood at the edge of this molten abyss, she declared the superiority of her new faith and (it is said) ate the sacred `ohelo berries without first giving some to goddess. Although she had been told by a kahuna (priest) of Pele that she would die, Kapiolani stood her ground and defied centuries of tradition, to the awe and amazement of the onlookers. Her act at Halema`uma`u was a defining moment that illustrates for us today the profound change that took place at that time in Hawai`i.

In a matter of just a few years, many of the traditional beliefs that had been held for centuries were tossed aside in exchange for new ideas from the West. Years after this event, artists and poets tried to capture this important moment, including the famous British poet Lord Alfred Tennyson, who penned a poem describing his feelings concerning this act by Kapiolani.  He wrote,

When from the terrors of Nature a people have fashion’d and worship a Spirit of Evil
Blest be the Voice of the Teacher who calls to them,
“Set yourselves free!”


Noble the Saxon who hurled at his Idol a valorous weapon in olden England!
Great, and greater, and greatest of women, island heroine Kapiolani
Clomb the mountain, and flung the berries and dared the Goddess, and freed the people
Of Hawa-i-ee!


A people believing that Peelè the Goddess would wallow in fiery riot and revel
On Kilauea,
Dance in a fountain of flame with her devils or shake with her thunders and shatter her island,
Rolling her anger
Thro’ blasted valley and flowing forest in blood-red cataracts down to the sea!


Long as the lava-light
Glares from the lava-take,
Dazing the starlight;
Long as the silvery vapor in daylight,
Over the mountain
Floats, will the glory of Kapiolani be mingled with either on Hawa-i-ee.


What said her Priesthood?
“Woe to this island if ever a woman should handle or gather the berries of Peelè
Accursed were she!
And woe to this island if ever a woman should climb to the dwelling of Peelè the Goddess!
Accursed were she!”


One from the Sunrise
Dawned on His people and slowly before him
Vanished shadow-like
Gods and Goddesses,
None but the terrible Peelè remaining as Kapiolani
Ascended her mountain,
Baffled her priesthood,
Broke the Taboo,
Dipt to the crater,
Called on the Power adored by the Christian and crying, “I dare her, let Peelè avenge herself!”
Into the flame-billows dashed the berries, and drove the demon from Hawa-i-ee.

A Treasure of Hawaii Passes Away

March 9, 2011

We are sad to hear of Hawaiian artist and historian Herb Kawainui Kane’s death this week. He was a great friend to the National Parks in Hawaii. Whether in the form of artwork on wayside exhibits, brochures, multimedia, or in original artwork, Herb Kane’s passion and knowledge of Hawaii and her people will continue to be told through the incredibly rich artwork he has left behind. Herb Kane will be greatly missed. Aloha.

Videos of Hawaii Volcano’s New Eruption

March 6, 2011

The following videos were taken by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (USGS) this weekend and show a new fissure eruption near Pu`u O`o in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Awesome Videos Show Collapse Into Lava Lake!

March 5, 2011

Click on the image to watch the video! There was a series of vent wall and rim collapses on March 3, much like those than occurred in January and February. This video, compiled from the Webcam on the rim of Halema`uma`u above the vent, is one of the larger collapses, and shows the northwest rim of the vent falling into the lava lake. (USGS)

This video, also compiled from the Webcam on the rim of Halema`uma`u, shows the north rim of the vent collapsing. (USGS)

This clip, captured by a video camera on the rim of Halema`uma`u to the southwest of the vent, shows a small slice of the western rim of the vent collapsing into the lava lake and includes sound. (USGS)

Booming sounds from the vent in Halema`uma`u have been audible around the summit area of Kilauea for the past several days. Some of these sounds are caused by rocks striking the surface of the lava lake, but most are actually the sound of the vent walls cracking due to heating and expansion of rock. This video, from February 25, illustrates what this sounds like. Occasionally, these sharp reports and booms can be visually correlated to rocks exploding off the vent wall and showering fragments down onto the surface of the lava lake. (USGS)

The level of the lava lake sometimes changes abruptly. These cycles of rise and fall, which amount to a vertical change of around 15 m (about 50 ft), are occasionally triggered by rockfalls. Here, a small collapse from the vent wall triggers degassing and a drop in the lava level. (USGS)

As the spattering shown in the previous video intensifies, the walls of the vent heat even more, causing the cracking of the rocks through thermal expansion to speed up, creating the cacophony of popping noises apparent in this video. (USGS)