USGS
Hawaiian Volcano 
Observatory

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Photograph by J. Kauahikaua on October 9, 1997

Aerial view is from above the west slope of Kilauea toward the east. The buildings that housed the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (top center) between 1948 and 1986 were originally built in 1927. See a brief summary of the history of HVO and the Jaggar Museum or the detailed summary of the history of Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Geologists have dated the lava flows that underlie Kilauea's west flank at 500-600 years old. The gently sloping surface and flow directions of individual lava flows suggest that the flows were erupted from a vent located somewhere above the northwest part of the current caldera floor. Apparently, a shield was growing at the summit of Kilauea when these flows were erupted. Sometime later, but before 1790 A.D., the shield collapsed during the formation of the current caldera.

The installation at the the near end of the dirt road is Uwekahuna vault, a well-known site for monitoring ground tilt at Kilauea's summit. The broad forested swell on the skyline is the profile of `Aila`lau shield, active 350-400 years ago.

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Updated: 15 September 1998