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1960 Kapoho eruption of Kilauea 40 years old

Lava fountain and steam-driven explosions near Kapoho, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i
Lava fountain and steam-driven explosions
January 14, 1960
1960 Kapoho eruption: [DETAILS]

A spectacular eruption began on January 13, 1960, near the village of Kapoho on the lower east rift zone of Kilauea. The eruption followed the end of the Kilauea Iki eruption at Kilauea's summit by less than a month. The two eruptions are intimately related, even though Kapoho is 47 km away from the summit.

The timing of the two eruptions was lucky, for modern instrumentation had just been installed and tested at HVO by Jerry Eaton and colleagues. The information obtained by the new equipment provided insights into eruption mechanisms that were unparalleled at the time. Together, the two eruptions, which are sometimes lumped to become the 1959-60 eruption, helped HVO scientists to construct a model of how Kilauea works that still serves as a template for Hawaiian shield-building volcanism in general and paired summit-rift zone eruptions in particular.

The 1960 Kapoho eruption had it all: towering lava fountains, extensive and thick `a`a lava flows, powerful steam blasts that deposited salty ash across the countryside, the addition of a large area of new land beyond the old east coast of the island, and, on the somber side, the destruction of two villages and numerous farmsteads and outlying houses, roadways, and fishing ponds. The construction of a large new cinder and pumice cone, now called Pu`u Laimana, created a landmark for the Kapoho area and is quarried for cinder today. The eruption was an opportunity to test the effect of hastily constructed lava barriers, bulldozed up quickly to protect residences and schools; the disappointing results show that careful advance planning is necessary if barriers are to achieve their greatest potential.

The accompanying presentation summarizes some of the highlights of the eruption with both text and photographs. Some of the photos are old, and the colors are not the best, but nonetheless they provide graphical evidence of the many different twists and turns that the eruption took. In addition, we include a poem by Frances Kakugawa, resident of Kapoho in her youth, which expresses her sense of loss at the destruction of Kapoho and the surrounding area.

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The URL of this page is http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/archive/2000_04_04.html
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Updated: 29 February 2000