Coming To The Big Island This Week? The Helicopter Tour Might Be Worth It

imageSince I blogged the pause and restart of Pu’u O’o, for completeness I will report that the eruption on The Big Island of Hawai’i has not only returned, it’s in probably the most visually exciting phase it’s been in in years. After the Father’s Day earthquake swarm, the lava being fed to the surface has apparently moved “downrift” of the Pu’u O’o crater and in the past week has found the surface in what’s called a “fissure eruption.”

 This morning’s update speaks of a 100M-wide flow of lava (the picture is of a flow that was apparently around 10M across). If you want to see lava, you should know:

  • The hundreds-of-feet tall lava fountains in the advertisements happened for a few days twenty-four years ago,
  • From a distance of more than a few dozen yards, during daylight hours, flowing lava doesn’t look spectacular (the surface rock’s heat-related red component is very largely overwhelmed by the ambient light of the tropics). (Hmmm…. if your camcorder / digital camera has an infrared “night-shot” mode … )
  • Within a few dozen yards, it’s about the third-most amazing thing you’ll ever see
  • At night, even from a distance, flowing lava is probably the second-most amazing thing you’ll ever see. The visible red light from the heat is visible from many miles away.
  • Being within a few dozen yards of lava entering the ocean at night is the single most amazing thing you’ll ever see.

Right now, apparently the fissure eruption is throwing up some 2M high fountains. My guess is that this is among the best stuff you’ll ever see from a helicopter.

In summary, as of 7/28/2007:

  • Eruption’s back on and vog has returned (bummer)
  • You probably can’t see any of this from land at the moment, but the lava will very likely eventually find its way off the ridge its on and be visible, at night, from a distance
  • There are no legal hikes with a vantage point of the current eruption
  • A helicopter tour of the fissure eruption might give you a once-in-a-decade view

All of this will probably change within a week or so. If you’re planning on being a lava tourist, absolutely check out the daily eruption report.