By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Lava from Kilauea Volcano is entering the ocean in lower Puna for the first time since New Year’s Day, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports.
“Lava flows on the coastal plain were observed entering the ocean around 1 p.m. yesterday (Saturday),” a pre-recorded Kilauea eruption update telephone message dated 8:35 a.m. Sunday noted. The message said that Kilauea’s eruption continued at two locations — Pu‘u O‘o vent in the volcano’s East rift zone, and a lava lake in Halema‘uma‘u crater at the summit.
The last lava flow to enter the ocean occurred in December last year at West Ka‘ili‘ili, but that flow stopped on New Year’s Day.
News of the lava’s ocean entry spread quickly among those guiding lava viewing tours.
“It’s creating a big buzz in our industry right now,” said Ikaika Marzo, a guide for Kalapana Cultural Tours, while independent guide Bo Lozoff predicted that reports via news and social media will create “kind of a zoo for the next couple of weeks” as locals and tourists alike try to get an up close and personal view of the molten rock streaming into the ocean.
“It’s beautiful. The first (new) ocean entry of 2012, so it’s a welcome sight for all of us,” Lozoff said. “For those of us who have seen a lot of ocean entries, it’s not the most dynamic or spectacular one, but for the four people I took out this (Sunday) morning, it’s the most unbelievable experience of their lives.”
Marzo said the flow is “just south of the Waikipanaha ocean entry between 2007 and 2009.” Lozoff said it’s “about 200 east of the eastern border of (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park)” and “about two miles in from the end of the road (Highway 130) where people park.”
“It’s the shortest walk that it’s been all year,” Lozoff said. “If I were walking out there alone, it’d be about 45 minutes for me, but with the people that I take it’s generally about an hour. To get to where it is over the sea cliff, to get the best view, we had to hot-foot it over the active tube and get onto the west side. We’re approaching it from the east.”
Marzo said the lava is the pahoehoe variety, which usually moves quickly, but added that the flow “is pretty much trickling into the ocean. It’s going into the ocean but it’s not in the volume that it used to be.”
“It’s not like the cascading flow that we’ve had in the past couple of years,” Lozoff added. “It’s more like the a‘a rocks tumbling over into the ocean. There are really nice flows on top feeding it. I would hope that it would become a little more robust.”
Both Marzo and Lozoff cautioned that hikers should go with a trained, experienced guide to minimize the dangers of close encounters with the 2000-degree Fahrenheit lava and the deadly fumes called “laze” — which are produced when the lava rolls into the water.
“It’s dangerous out there,” Marzo said. “You shouldn’t go out there by yourself because there are unknown hazards that you might not be aware of.”
Lozoff said the worst-case scenario is that “somebody could fall into the flow” but there are other concerns as well.
“Some people don’t even bring enough fluids,” he said. “When somebody books a lava walk with me, I send them an email with what they should bring and what they should expect. … You see somebody going out there with one little Aquafina bottle of water at 10 o’clock on a sunny day, and they’re just gonna be fried.
“… If they go out there with a guide, they’ll be safe and they can get a really nice view. People going out there by themselves wouldn’t know where and how and whether they should go to get a good view.”
Email John Burnett @firstname.lastname@example.org