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30 December 1999

Lava drapery and new beach

Some of the lava flowing over a sea cliff eventually cools and solidifies to form structures resembling the drips of wax down a candle. This is known as lava drapery. Wonderful examples of lava drapery have been formed in the past two weeks at the Lae`apuki bench. Sometimes, as the photo on the left below shows, the drapery stands out from the overhanging cliff like a connected stalactite-stalagmite pair. The drapery is very fragile, and only the sturdiest survives for long.

As lava enters the water, much of it is quenched to a brittle glass and broken into tiny pieces by the surf. Long-shore currents and wave action deposit the resulting black sand into pocket beaches. Such beaches are generally ephemeral in such a dynamic environment. The photo on the right below shows such a beach currently being formed beneath the western part of the flow at Lae`apuki. The lava flowing over the sea cliff may eventually end up as black sand on this beach.

Lava drapery at Lae`apuki bench
Lava drapery formed last week on the old sea cliff at the back of Lae`apuki bench. Note the nearly free-standing pillar in the right part of the photo. December 26, 1999.
New beach and active lava flow
Small lava cascade (middle of photo) down sea cliff near west edge of flow. Black sand beach, less than 1 week old, is actively growing. Warning sign in foreground was overrun by lava earlier this week. December 30, 1999.
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28 December 1999

Bench continues to grow

The old Lae`apuki bench continues to be built outward into the ocean as lava flows out from pahoehoe capping the bench. In addition, a small bench is being formed that extends the old Lae`apuki bench westward more than 100 m. Last night, the western margin of the active flow reached the sea cliff and send lava cascading to the new sand beach below, which formed during the past week by deposition from long-shore currents. The process of bench formation and modification is highly dynamic and unpredictable.

Lava dribbles 15 m over old sea cliff to new bench below
Lava dribbles 15 m from top of cliff onto new bench at sunrise on December 28. In the distance is the Lae`apuki bench, with steam rising from several entry points.
Drapery from last night's falls
Drapery on sea cliff where last night's lava cascades solidified. The lava plopped onto the new black sand beach below and flowed into the sea to form a small bench.
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23 December 1999

Flow starts to make new bench just west of old Lae`apuki bench

Lava is now entering the ocean at and just west of Lae`apuki bench. As of this morning, the lava flow above the sea cliff not only feeds lava onto the bench and then into the water but also pours lava directly into the sea west of the bench. A new bench is just starting to form outward from the sea cliff west of the old bench, as the photos below show. In addition, the old Lae`apuki bench is starting to widen as new lava builds it seaward.

Lava pours 15 m into sea at sunrise
Lava pours 15 m from top of cliff into sea at sunrise on December 23, just west of Lae`apuki bench. Note the small bench just starting to form at base of cliff. Compare with Dec. 20 photo, taken from near the same place.
Lava starts to build new bench
Lava starts to build new bench below sea cliff just west of Lae`apuki bench, 0700 December 23, looking west.
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21 December 1999

Lava continues to enter sea over cliff

Lava pouring over sea cliff at Kilauea volcano, Hawai`i
December 20, 1999
Lava pours over 15-20-m cliff directly into ocean, 80 m west of the Lae`apuki bench. The flow widened westward more than 100 m in past day.
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Map of lava flows near ocean, December 21
 
Map of lava flows on south coastal part of Kilauea Volcano

Large map. Map shows west lava flow (red) reaching ocean at and just west of the old Lae`apuki lava bench, about 800 m east of Highcastle (not currently active). The end of the active east flow (also red) is about 700 m from the bend in the Royal Gardens road (dashed blue) in northeast part of map. The east flow was not shown on a previous version of this map.


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 eruption information (tel. 808-985-6000).


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Updated: 30 December 2000 (DAS)