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KILAUEA ERUPTION CONTINUES!

This update current as of August 17, 1997

[Eruption updates are posted approximately every two weeks. More frequent updates will accompany drastic changes in activity or increased threat to residential areas.]

[Previous eruption updates may be accessed through our archive index.]

For readers familiar with events of the past few months, August changes include these:

  • lava overran the Waha'ula heiau on Monday, August 11;
  • lava enters the sea at two sites, slowly building new land along two coastal benches;
  • Pu'u 'O'o overflows periodically from its summit crater.

The 55th episode of Kilauea's 14.5-year-long east rift zone eruption continues. This episode, which began February 24, 1997, has been characterized by shifting vent locations on the west and southwest flanks of Pu`u `O`o cone, enlargement of the episode 50-55 lava shield, and now, nearly continuous activity inside the Pu`u `O`o crater.

In the past two weeks, eruptive activity has been focused at two main vents-- "crater cone," a large spatter cone inside the Pu`u `O`o crater; and "south shield," a new lava shield about 300 m south of the Pu`u `O`o cone. "Mini-shield," a smaller shield that hugs the south slope of Pu`u `O`o cone, has been inactive most of the past two weeks.

The crater cone commonly has moderate to high effusion rates. From there lava pours into a pond in the eastern part of the Pu'u 'O'o crater. Pond level fluctuates, draining to depths as much as 60 m below the crater rim and then filling to within only a few meters. This cycle occurs over periods of about 2-4 hours. On occasion the pond overflows, chiefly eastward. The most extensive of these flows were emplaced on Wednesday, August 8.

South shield has remained static in form except for sparse new pahoehoe flows. But skylights on the shield summit provide glimpses of lava escaping from the vent area through tubes. These tubes drain southeastward across the upper flow field and downslope nearly to the coastal plain. There they feed several lava flows, the longest of which reaches to the sea.

It is on the coastal plain where newsworthy events have occurred in the past two weeks. On Friday, August 8, lava buried a 300-m section of jeep road that provided access to the Royal Gardens subdivision. That lobe of lava progressed slowly seaward, slowly encroaching upon the Waha`ula heiau, an ancient Hawaiian ceremonial site. On Monday morning, August 11, at 0124 hrs local time, lava began to overrun the heiau. It reached the sea two hours later, at 0335.

Since then, lava has been entering the sea at the Waha'ula entry and also at a site about 900 m farther west, near the area known as Kamokuna. The lava builds low lava terraces or benches, creating new land outboard of the seacliffs. Lava oozes from the bench edge in discrete narrow lobes and dribbles into the sea. Exact sites of entry are marked by steam plumes, inevitable byproduct when water argues with incandescent lava.

Eruption-viewing opportunities change constantly, so those readers planning a visit to the volcano should contact Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park for the most current information. Visitors should be warned that the coastal benches can collapse into the sea without warning. No one should venture onto the benches, inviting though they may seem.


This map current as of August 17, 1997

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Updated: 31 March 1998