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Hawaii's lava is still flowing ... here's where you can watch.

Rivers of fire are still flowing on the Big Island. On June 22, lava from Kilauea's ongoing eruption in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park destroyed Wahaula Visitor Center at the end of Chain of Craters Road. At our deadline, lava continued to advance, threatening ancient Wahaula Heiau temple and covering a coastal trail. But in spite of the damage, estimated at $1 million, park visitors can still get a good view of the current lava flow from the new end of Chain of Craters Road. While an average of 650,000 cubic yards

of lava runs into the ocean daily, coming close to glowing lava depends more on the whim of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, than on any firm patterns of scientific predictability.

Getting a furnace-eye view

In February 1988, we reported that Kilauea's Puu Oo eruption, which started in January 1983, had entered a new phase: lava from a molten lake had closed the road and was flowing into the sea. The basic dynamics of the eruption are unchanged since then. The lava lake near Puu Oo cinder cone is smaller now, but it's still pumping molten rock into a system of lava tubes stretching to the coast near Wahaula. In addition to the visitor center, 68 homes have been destroyed by spreading surface flows.

For current details on flow activity, stop at Kilauea Visitor Center near the park entrance ($5 per car). If lava is flowing, don't dawdle; officials recommend allowing 2 to 3 hours for the 65-mile round trip (no gas or services) to the lava site, and flows can stop at any time. The viewing area is open from 8:30 A.M. to 9:30 Pm.; flashlights are required after dark.

A temporary information center (no ex-

hibits) has been set up at Kamoamoa Campground, about 1 1/2 miles west of the slowly advancing lava; double-check lava-viewing conditions here before driving on to the lava flows.

Rangers should be on site to help you safely approach the oozing flows of molten rock.

Discovering a new black sand beach

One dependable display is the cloud of steam billowing from the coast where lava enters the sea. A potential hazard is sulfuric acid released when lava hits the water. If acidic steam is blowing toward land, affected areas may be closed to visitors until the wind changes.

Even if lava isn't flowing, at Kamoamoa you can walk the state's newest beach, a crescent of coarse black sand formed by spattering lava and deposited by currents in a once-rocky cove. Although the steep slope and dangerous currents make the beach unsafe for swimming or wading, it is a delight for strolling and perfect for picnicking (bring drinking water).

For recorded details on current flow, call (808) 967-7977. For park details, write to Superintendent, Box 52, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii 96718.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Sep 1, 1989
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