January 5, 2017 Voggy Bench Collapse
Kī Hō’alu (Hawaiian Slack Key) by Hilo’s own Ben Kaili
Extremely voggy conditions in East Hawaii this morning obscured our view throughout our flight. Nonetheless, we captured images of a very active lake within the Pu’u ‘O’o vent. This is the clearing house where lava first surfaces in the vent before exiting to, not only the ongoing 61G flow, but also the still active additional flow just to the northeast. Pele still breaks out on the eastern lobe frequently, but continues overplating and widening rather than making much progress downslope. It has now progressed a bit over a mile from the vent. The main flow continues unabated, dumping tons of lava into the pacific ocean at Kamokuna just inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Big news of this week was the collapse of the lava delta, which was nearly completely swallowed up be the Pacific Ocean on New Year’s Eve. Additionally, and remarkably, a huge portion of the shoreline to the east, not even directly connected to the lava delta collapsed as well, creating a huge crescent shaped bay about two hundred yards east of the ocean entry. Today’s plume was ascending directly upward… no lava was visible, but sizable littoral (near the ocean) explosions occur repeatedly at the ocean entry site. Skylights at the base of the Pali remain open, revealing Pele’s liquid rock as it flows through the tube system to the new lava delta some six miles from the vent. The lava delta was well over 20 acres large, and nearly the entire bench sank into the water. We are restricted to one-thousand feet from the ocean entry, but tour boats continue to go very close to the active ocean entry. Why that is allowed is a mystery. Pele continues to form new black sand beaches along the coast near the ocean entry. The hot lava’s interaction with the cold seawater shattering the flow into bits that are then tumbled into submission. the viewing area has now been re-opened, after its closure for several days following the collapse. What a magnificent sight for visitors who can gain access from either the Kalpana of HVNP side by walking out the temporary access road, which goes directly to the ocean entry! The walk is lengthy, however, and precautions should be observed.

Mahalo to Paradise Helicopters and Bruce Omori at Extreme Exposure