Mainland Media Folks Experience Rare Occurrence at the Volcano

For the next few days a group of mainland journalists and bloggers are having the opportunity to do a few FREE or cheap things on the Big Island.

Today started off with a scavenger hunt at the Hilo’s Farmer’s Market where each of them were given $10.00 and were sent off to find food for lunch for everyone to make a picnic out of.

The highlight of today was being able to see the volcano here on the Big Island from both the top where the Halema’uma’u Crater is… to the bottom of the flow in Kalapana.

What they didn’t know was that they were going to be treated to a rare occurrence where the entire floor of Pu’u O’o collapsed into the crater.  Andrew Cooper, author  of the blog A Darker View,  wrote in his post today “Kilauea is up to Something“:

This afternoon the entire floor of Pu’u O’o has collapsed into incadescent rubble. For the last few months the crater at Pu’u O’o has hosted a lava floor that occasionally floods. This had formed a solid crust hundreds of meters across with spatter cones and small fresh lava flows across the floor. This has now completely collapsed. At the same time the rift has experienced a large number of small, mostly magnitude 2 earthquakes. At he same time there was rapid deflation at the summit caldera and at Pu’u O’o. Where has the lava gone?…

Well when I talked to Jessica Ferracane of Irondog Communications, she stated that the folks did in fact hear something happening at the time and it was quite spectacular!  Ferracane posted on her facebook account the following account:

Is listening to Halemaumau Crater boom and gasp as rocks fall into Pele’s home.  Amazing!

I met up with the mainland media folks in Pahoa and then we cruised down to Kalapana to see what was going on down there.

They were fortunate in that they got to go to a house down there on the lava flow and were treated to a spectacular view of the flow from there while remaining in a safe atmosphere.

As the sun went down… we could begin to see the orange glow of the lava making it’s way down the hillside.

Once the sun was completely down… you could see a nice flow from the top of the mountain down to the bottom of the hill.

It was a great day and evening for the mainland folks and they were treated to the award winning Kaleo’s Restaurant in Pahoa for dinner.

The media folks will be heading over to the other side of the island in the next few days to see some of the cheap and free things to do on that side of the island… it was great to meet them and I look forward to reading their media write ups on the Big Island when they return home.

Media Release:

Pu‘u ‘O‘o crater floor collapse followed by middle east rift zone eruption

USGS Image of Pu'u 'O'o Floor Collapse

At 1:42 p.m. HST this afternoon, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) monitoring network detected the onset of rapid deflation at Pu‘u ‘O‘o and increased tremor along Kilauea Volcano’s middle east rift zone.  At 2:00 p.m., Kilauea’s summit also began to deflate.

Between 2:16 and 2:21 p.m., the floor of the Pu‘u ‘O‘o crater began to collapse, and within 10 minutes, incandescent ring fractures opened on the crater floor a few tens of meters away from the crater wall. As the floor continued to drop, lava appeared in the center of the crater floor, the northeast spatter cone within Pu‘u ‘O‘o collapsed, and an obvious scarp developed on the west side of the crater floor, with lava cascading over the scarp toward the center of the crater.

At 2:41 p.m., the scarp on the west side of the crater floor appeared to disintegrate, exposing incandescent rubble.  Five minutes later, the collapse of a large block along the east crater wall produced a dust plume.

Webcam images showed that the Pu‘u ‘O‘o crater floor continued to drop through 4:26 p.m., when fume obscured the camera view.  HVO Webcam images can be accessed at http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hvo/cams/.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hl6bI5JOLBA]

Coincident with the collapse in Pu‘u ‘O‘o, an earthquake swarm began along Kilauea’s middle east rift zone in the area of Maka`opuhi and Napau Craters.  Tiltmeters showed east rift zone deflation, which continues as of this writing.

At 5:15 p.m., an HVO geologist flying over Kilauea’s middle east zone reported “an eruption in Napau Crater.”  The eruption is now known to be located between Napau Crater and Pu‘u ‘O‘o.

Updates on the status of this eruption will be posted on HVO’s Web site at http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hvo/activity/kilaueastatus.php.

According to Jim Kauahikaua, HVO’s Scientist-in-Charge, “This event is remarkably similar to a 1997 eruption in and near Napau Crater, which lasted less than 24 hours.”

Kilauea’s summit also continues to deflate, and the lava lake level within the Halema‘uma‘u Crater vent continues to drop, facilitating rockfalls from the vent wall.

In response to the current volcanic conditions, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park has closed the Chain of Craters Road and all east rift zone and coastal trails, along with the Kulanaokuaiki campground, until further notice.

Daily updates about Kilauea’s ongoing eruptions, recent images and videos of summit and east rift zone volcanic activity, and data about recent earthquakes are posted on the HVO Web site at http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov.

The USGS provides science for a changing world. For more information, visit www.usgs.gov.

First Annual Na Palapalai Song Contest