For the Love of Lava

For the Love of Lava

In a mere three weeks, with spectacular force, over 8 acres of new land has been created by  two new lava flows that have broken out at the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. Visitors have been flocking to the southeast coast of the Hawaiian Island to go with the flow of the lava and witness molten rock spilling into the Pacific Ocean, creating billowing clouds of steam adding new land to the rugged coastline.

Like most Polynesian islands, Hawaii was created out of lava. So it’s no surprise that the most active volcanoes in the world spout from the Big Island.
Petroglyphs on Pu'u Loa on Big Island, Hawaii

Petroglyphs on Pu’u Loa on Big Island, Hawaii

Pictured to the right is Pu`u Loa, translated as the “long hill”i or “Hill-(of)-long-(life)”ii from Hawaiian, a place considered sacred to the people of Hawai`i, and those of Kalapana in particular. Earlier in the year when we were filming for our new Hawaii episode, we were lucky enough to visit this spot – located in the ahupua`a (an ancient Hawaiian land division) of Panau Nui on the southern flank of Kilauea volcano currently erupting.

To many Hawaiians, molten lava is the kinolau, or body form, of volcano goddess Pelehunuamea or Pele.
hawaii volcano

Some insight into lava:

  • When lava is underground in its molten state it is called magma. As it reaches the ground, and air, it is called lava. Once lava begins to harden it can turn into a variety of shapes and colors. The color of lava depends on the temperature of the flow as well as the chemical composition and any impurities that are in the liquid rock
  • When lava cools it also forms a myriad of different shapes and types of lava. There are two main types of lava pahoehoe (pa-hoy-hoy) and anda’a (ah ah).
  • Pahoehoe lava comes out smooth and dense and can form large areas that resemble flat parking lots or smooth bumps. A’a, on the other hand, forms individual rocks on the surface anywhere from a few inches to many feet in size. The rocks are porous and very jagged. Below the surface a’a is extremely dense. In general, pahoehoe is very easy to walk on and a’a is very difficult, if not nearly impossible, to walk on (at least without getting hurt).
  • A third type of lava, pillow lava, forms only underwater and is created by lava entering the ocean underwater where the pressure of the ocean pushes against the lava to form pillow-like shapes that cool very quickly due to the ocean water.
Now you have the lowdown on lava – you’re ready to watch our exclusive clip of Zoe visiting Pu`u Loa to learn about its significance within Hawai’ian culture.  And of course our brand new episode, Hawaii 2, is available to pre-order now!

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Main image: Pu’u Pua’i fountaining event, Oct. 1959 – Kilauea Iki volcano erupting, big island of Hawaii