Hawaiian Volcanoes: Beauty & Terror

The most active volcano on Earth is also the most visited

So book your ticket to enjoy the distinct possibility to be blown up 20 kilometers into the air :) - Kilauea volcano is one of the five shield-volcanoes that comprise the islands of Hawaii and it's anything but docile.

You can still enjoy the spectacular views in relative peace, however, because the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory monitors all current volcanic activity, which keeps them busy around the clock (a quick look at their website eruption archives proves that)

Pu'u 'O'o cone on Kilauea, Big Island of Hawaii (aerial view) -

(image credit: Jacob)

Explosions in Paradise

Eruptions in the Hawaiian volcanoes are normally preceded by multiple earthquakes which create fissures and facilitate the magma's flow to the surface.

(images credit: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)

Mesmerizing Lava Flows

The Paoehoe (pah-ho-ay-ho-ay) lava flows reach the seawater and explode, as ocean waves enter the fiery lava tubes.

The semi-solidified lava structures may look as curious lava-lamp oddities, but conceal behind their fanciful shapes a highly dangerous nature. The lava tongues and "tentacles" may look solid but often they remain incredibly hot and unstable for long time.

Like alien bread dough they creep forward, quickly cooling off and adding perplexing shapes here and there. The imaginary sequel to "The Blob" movie could certainly use such visuals:

(image credit: Thomas Reichart)

(image credit: Mamen Saura)

A creeping lava tongue... A fiery waterfall curtain...

(images credit: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)

The bizarre coloring observed in the lava flowing in the tubes:

Such openings are called "skylights", offering a view into a hellish kingdom below:

Newly-cooled lava solidifies into incredibly sophisticated banded and blobbed shapes, with new ferns sprouting already... as life takes over the blasted landscape.

(images credit: Sparky Leigh)

In some areas you can really sympathize with poor hobbits climbing toward the Mount Doom. Such landscape does indeed exist on a fairy-tale tropical island... unstable reality, poised on the brink of disintegration:

(images credit: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)

Fire meets the sea in a surreal spectacle

(images credit: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)

So much about the beauty. What about the danger?

Granted, the Kilauea eruptions are not as violent as some might imagine after watching the movie "Dante's Peak":

However, they are deadly enough to eradicate a few villages and incinerate a multitude of houses, as recently as 1990.

Not much is left from a house and a car in that flow:

The trees don't stand a chance:

Much larger eruptions had occured in the 1920s, caused by the fiery lava interaction with sea and ground water. Eruption columns had gone as high as 20 kilometers!

(images credit: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)

Kilauea volcanic activity is also are known for creating vog, or volcanic smog, reaching over to other Hawaiian islands. In other words, what you get is a full smorgasbord of geological thrills and horrors.


Stromboli's mixture of water & fire

Another volcano that spews flows of lava into the sea is Stromboli volcano in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily - second largest European volcano after Etna.

Capable of producing powerful tsunami-like waves, this fire cauldron stays in permanent activity for thousands of years... In 2002 and in February this year the activity was significant enough to spawn very large waves that damaged structures on neighboring Aeolian Islands. According to BBC, two new craters opened on the volcano’s summit, followed by the strong eruption.

(original unknown)


We will continue to cover the terrible beauty and activity of volcanoes, so let us know if you have some interesting pictures and facts.
For example, this spectacular photo made the "Astronomy Picture of the Day":

Lenticular clouds blanketing the eruption of Volcano Tungurahua in Ecuador -

(image credit: Patrick Taschier)

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