Our Beautiful World


Only four days old, this fan-shaped lava delta (center of image) extends about 200 m into
the ocean on the southeast coast of Kilauea Volcano, Hawai'i. The diffuse plume of white steam
at the leading edge of the delta indicates that several small lava flows are pouring into the ocean. Countless deltas have formed along this coastline during Kilauea's eruptive history.

"Two mighty agencies in collision. Two antagonistic and gigantic forces in contact, and producing effects on a scale inconceivably grand!"

"The atmosphere in all directions was filled with ashes, spray, gases... while the burning lava, as it fell into the water, was shivered into millions of minute particles, and, being thrown back into the air, fell in showers of sand on all the surrounding country. The coast was extended into the sea.... and a pretty sand-beach and a new cape was formed."
T. Coan, minister in Hawai'i, 1841

Explosions and collapsing land endanger people

Such vivid descriptions and scenes of lava entering the sea along Kilauea's shoreline draw
millions of people to Hawai'i who are hoping to witness for themselves growth of new land and experience the remarkable interaction of lava and water. Beautiful and stunning, the explosive interaction can be dangerous to visitors who venture too close to a lava entry point. Also, the
new land created by lava entering the sea is unstable. Large areas regularly collapse into the sea, usually triggering a series of stronger explosions and sending a wave of scalding seawater
onshore. Such explosions have hurled hot rocks and lava fragments more than 100 m inland!

Unfortunately, the entry of lava into the ocean is difficult to observe from a distance because it
is often obscured by an energetic and acidic steam plume or by an abrupt cliff above the entry point. This often invites visitors to jeapardise their safety by walking right up to and over the
point where lava enters the ocean. Activity that may appear stable and non-threatening can actually change without warning, leaving no time for escape.

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