In January of 1983, a cycle began that has continued to today as one of the longest eruption cycles in recorded history. In April of 2002, a sixth phase began. In August of 2002, there were dramatic changes that has resulted in periods of spectacular activity. The U.S. Geodetic Survey at Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory has documented this activity and has authorized reproduction of their photographs.
The eruption activity is mostly within the boundaries of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, 30 miles from Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii. "As the Hawaiian Hawk flies," Fuku-Bonsai is about 18 miles from the volcanic activity with all lava off the east rift zone and flowing in the opposite direction. To get to the eruption site, from the park entrance, take the east direction of Crater Rim Drive for four miles past Thurston Lava Tube, and down to the end of Chain of Craters Road (a 40-mile round trip).
Chain of Craters road descends from the 3,700' elevation to sea-level and passes through a full range of volcanic topography. Visitors hiking to the lava activity area are cautioned to wear optimum sunscreen, heavy boots, and carry 3-quarts of water per person. The best viewing is at night and flashlights and rainwear are required. During the most dramatic activity, the word quickly spreads throughout the islands. At night, the cars are lined up 2-miles or more along the road!
The area is hazardous and the hike not recommended for those with respiratory problems. Hikers are required to stay at least a quarter-mile from the ocean as the unstable lava benches may collapse at anytime. Sections larger than a football field are known to collapse and visitors have been killed and never recovered. Helicopter tours provide an outstanding learning opportunity to view the entire 2-mile lava journey from the outflow high uphill to the lava entering the ocean.
This report covers the very short 12-day period between August 2 to 14, 2002 when Myrtle and I hiked the area just at sunset and stayed until it was dark. Photos will be added to this report after they are developed. ~~~David W. Fukumoto
1. This map shows the 6 different major phases of the current eruption cycle. The blue line on the lower left is Chain of Craters Road. The red section on the left is very near to the end of the road and allows viewing fresh activity without extended hiking. The flow often travels through trees killed from earlier flows and setting fires.
At night, there are dramatic scenes when viewed through a long lens as multiple fiery orange-red lava streams cascade over Pulama Pali (cliffs). The flow was heading toward the West Highcastle Cliffs, but a section broke away and this is known as the Mother's Day Flow. On August 2, this reached the ocean at Willipe'a to begin this report.
AUGUST 2, 2002
2. Two streams of the Mother's Day flow light up the predawn sky! View from the end of Chain of Craters Road.
|3. At 5:43AM lava was dribbling and falling into the ocean from the leading tip of the Willipe'a lava bench.|
|4. An aerial view shows the flows that have crossed over Chain of Craters Road numerous times since the eruption began in 1983. On the bottom right the flow is entering the ocean at Willipe'a affording dramatic views with very little hiking. Pulama Pali is at upper left about 1/2 to 1 mile inland. On the upper right, the West Highcastle Flow is moving through old lava towards the ocean. The old flow on the bottom left is 600 to 900 years old. The dark flows are from 1992 to 1997.|
|5. High inland, a splatter cone is forming above a lava tube. Such tubes insulate the fiery lava stream with temperatures over 2,000°F and allows the lava to race downhill without cooling! Lava from the summit area is considered sacred by Hawaiians. It is also illegal to remove anything from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. To avoid the curse, DON'T STEAL LAVA!|
|6. Close-up shows stalactites and "welded splatter" being formed. It's this type of lava from ancient activity in non-sacred private lands that Fuku-Bonsai obtains it's lava.|
|AUGUST 6, 2002
7. 6AM: Lava from the "Highcastle Flow" begins to increase in volume. As it hits the flats, it continues to build up with the center staying very hot and the surface skin cooling. If say it builds to 10' thick and the leading edge starts flowing away over a cliff, soon a stream straightens and form draining out the lava pool and forming a lava tube.
|8. Detail of the leading toe of a lava lobe. The center is fiery hot, but just a few feet back, the surface skin is already forming and freezes the wrinkles created as the partially cooled surface is pushed along. At this point, the flow is still about 500' from the ocean.|
AUGUST 7, 2002
9. The West Highcastle Flow nears the sea cliff. Unlike highly dangerous volcanic activity in other parts of the world, Hawaiian lava is formed from gentler action and is amongst the most studied in the world. The two main types of lava uses Hawaiian words. "Pahoehoe" lava is the smooth skin flowing lava seen here advancing towards the ocean cliff.
|10. The lead tongue feeds a dribble over the edge onto the rocky base of the sea cliffs.|
AUGUST 8, 2002
11. 6AM: The main Highcastle Flow has found an almost direct line from the summit and is advancing towards the sea.
AUGUST 9, 2002
12. 6AM: The long anticipated Highcastle entry!
|13. Aerial photo of the Highcastle Flow entering the ocean over the seacliffs with new land already forming.|
AUGUST 10, 2002
14. Further uphill, when a flow slows while building up and crossing almost level terrain, the temperature falls and the surface forms rougher "clinker" A-A lava which is very rough and the second other major type of lava. This type of lava is commonly found throughout the Big Island. Some areas are very brittle. A few areas have lava that is very hard and dense and these types are highly suitable for bonsai lava plantings.
15. August 10, 6AM: The most spectacular photo of this eruption phase was taken at the height of the flow. Note the park photographers on the other side for scale. Lava is cascading from a number of small tubes directly into the ocean and building a bench.
|16. PELE'S ART #1|
AUGUST 11, 2002
17. PELE'S ART #2: Three fiery hot spigot flows entering the ocean.
|AUGUST 14, 2002
18. After just a few spectacular days, the flow is greatly diminished and is winding down. The bench is forming at the base of the cliff and lava no longer drops dramatically right into the ocean. Hot lava still flows and the scale can be seen by those on the other side who are risking their lives in an area well beyond the safe limit area imposed by the national park.
At twilight on August 14, David and Myrtle Fukumoto hiked in. This report will be continued when the photos are developed. By then, the flow had greatly diminished, but the view of multiple streams of red-orange lava flowing over Pulama Pali was impressive. Hot spots of lava could be seen all over the "Fire Mountain" as a huge volume of lava streamed to the ocean!
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