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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 18, 2007

Lava delta lost 23 acres in latest collapse

 •  Mauna Loa's next eruption toward Ka'u?

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory had originally estimated the May 10 lava delta collapse at East Lae'apuki at 16 acres, but now say it's closer to 23. Also, new cracks in the lava delta have been observed, hinting at further collapses.

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

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USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park: www.nps.gov/havo

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The chunk of Kilauea Volcano that collapsed into the ocean last week was bigger than originally thought, according to scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

After detailed mapping of the East Lae'apuki delta, the area of collapse was estimated at 23 acres, not the 16 acres originally reported in the immediate aftermath of the May 10 incident, said Jim Kauahikaua, scientist-in-charge of the observatory. He also said new cracks in the lava delta have been observed within several hundred yards of the ocean's edge, indicating the possibility of further collapses.

East Lae'apuki is the site of the two largest lava delta collapses to have taken place so far during the ongoing Kilauea eruption that began in 1983. A 34-acre collapse occurred in December 1996, followed by a 44-acre collapse in November 2005.

Before last week's event, the delta had grown to 65 acres, but its ocean entry had been inactive since mid-March, Kauahikaua said.

The collapse occurred piecemeal, with steam plumes shooting as high as 1,000 feet in the air as each section slid into the sea. The explosive interaction of cold seawater mixing with hot lava deposited an apron of rock debris over a 3-acre area and hurled lava fragments as big as a fist 460 feet inland.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists also reported yesterday a new ocean entry near the long-buried archeological site of Poupou-Kauka West.

The Poupou entry is within Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, about a mile east of the other active ocean entry at Kamokuna.

The Kamokuna ocean entry, about 1.3 miles east of East Lae'apuki, remains small, Kauahikaua said, suggesting that little lava is entering the water.

The sea cliff near East Lae'apuki remains closed by Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park because of hazards that include unstable terrain, flying rocks, scalding seawater and toxic gases. Visitors are being advised to stay behind the rope line, which is a few hundred feet from the old sea cliff.

Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com.