Hawaii’s BIg Island’s Hottest Attraction! Volcano!

Hawaii’s BIg Island’s Hottest Attraction! Volcano!

HAWAI’I’S HOTTEST ATTRACTION ENTERS THE SEA AGAIN

Kîlauea’s red hot lava currently visible by land, sea and air

Hilo, Hawai’i’s Big Island (March 11, 2008) – Hawai’i’s volcano goddess Pele is on the move again, and officials have joined forces to ensure the public can safely view the mesmerizing movement of smooth pâhoehoe lava as it makes its way down slope from Kîlauea volcano.

On Sat., Mar. 8, a coalition of federal, state and Hawai’i county leaders officially opened the Kalapana viewing area to provide safe viewing of the current lava flow by foot, which entered the ocean a few days ago – the first time lava has reached the sea since June 2007. While the ocean entry is not visible from the new viewing area, as many as 8,000 admirers flocked to the Kalapana viewing site, located at the end of Highway 130 in Puna, to see the lava ooze and burn its way across the coastal plain.

At press time, the viewing area is open daily from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., with the last car permitted into the parking area at 8 p.m. The afternoon opening gives volcano scientists ample time to assess the ever-changing lava activity and report to Hawai’i County Civil Defense. The area is subject to closure if danger is imminent.

“I was completely hypnotized by the beauty and power of the molten lava,” said Rebecca Sawyer, a resident of Waikoloa who drove more than three hours on Saturday with her family to witness the natural phenomenon. “It took us two hours to walk in from where we parked, but it was worth every step. It’s something that will be seared into my memory forever,” she said.

Visitors to the viewing area are strongly advised to carry two to three quarts or liters of water each; wear sturdy, closed-toe boots or shoes with socks; carry at least one flashlight per person; wear long pants, a sun hat and plenty of sunscreen. There is no cell phone coverage in the viewing area.

Hawai’i County Mayor Harry Kim reminds visitors the viewing area passes by private homes and properties and to proceed with respect and not leave trash behind. Portable restrooms are set up for public use.

Visitors on foot must obey all warning signs and are required to stay within permitted areas for safety purposes. A newly formed black sand beach and land area are extremely unstable, and could collapse into the ocean at any time. There is also the threat of acidic laze, a hazardous chemical reaction of hydrochloric acid (HCl) and seawater, that occurs when the extreme heat of the lava enters the sea, rapidly boils and vaporizes the seawater into visible white plumes.

The lava is also currently visible from the ocean via passenger crafts that avoid laze-prone areas. Capt. Shane Turpin, owner of Lava Ocean Adventures, reported a huge demand for his boat tours that depart East Hawai’i to take passengers to watch the lava pour into the sea, and reports they’ve seen multiple lava flows gushing into the sea daily.

“From the boat we’re experiencing a large push that just entered the sea this morning with 11 different spots where red hot lava was seen oozing into the sea. Quite a spectacle, even for the most seasoned lava explorers. We’re operating tours during sunset and sunrise daily,” said Capt. Turpin. “People are just in awe when they see Pele meet the ocean. No words can describe it.”

Air tours are another popular way to view the current active flow. “We’ve had a lot of incredible flight seeing in the last six months or so, but it can change as quickly as we are speaking,” said Jeanne Alford, Big Island operations manager for Sunshine Helicopters.

“We never know what we’re going to see on each trip, the lava can be so unpredictable. But I can say we’re seeing lava activity in some areas now that we haven’t seen in many years. What is predictable is that Hawai’i’s Big Island has so much incredible and diverse geography, from valleys, to lava plains, volcanoes and waterfalls, that any of our helicopter flights will be a great time,” she said.

The current eruption originates from a fissure northeast of Pu’u Ô’ô vent, in the Pu’u Kahauale’a Natural Area Reserve, outside the boundaries of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. The area is managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and is strictly off limits for public safety concerns due to hazardous vent conditions and high sulfur dioxide fume concentrations, with ongoing law enforcement to prevent entry. Outside of the Natural Area Reserve, the coastal land area near the current flow is also strictly off limits and state officials are redirecting hikers to the lava viewing area.

For more information on current conditions at Kîlauea volcano, safety updates, and the Kalapana viewing area, please visit:

http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov for daily Kîlauea eruption updates, (808) 967-7328
http://www.lavainfo.us for Hawai’i County Civil Defense updates, (808) 935-0031

For information on air tour and charter boat companies offering Hawai’i Island tours, please visit http://www.bigisland.org/activities-air/175/flying-tours
http://www.bigisland.org/activities-water/22/whale-watching-hawaii

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