POSTED: 1:19 p.m. HST, Nov 25, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 10:05 p.m. HST, Nov 25, 2012
Hawaii island tour operators enjoyed their own version of Black Friday weekend when lava from Kilauea Volcano’s Puu Oo vent spilled into the ocean Saturday afternoon, prompting a surge of business from locals and visitors eager to witness the spectacle.
Geologists from the University of Hawaii-Hilo were on hand when the lava met the ocean around 1 p.m. at a location just east of the eastern foundry of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The lava entering the ocean comes from one of two active flows on the coastal plain.
The volume of lava pouring into the ocean has not yet produced the dramatic steam clouds seen in previous ocean entries. Regardless, tour operators in the area had all the business they could handle today.
“It’s always steady around here,” said Shane Turpin, lead captain at Lava Ocean Adventures and Lava Ocean Tours Inc. “It’s just more people are interested in seeing the active flow where it’s entering the ocean.
“When it does touch the ocean, we run a more specialized just-lava-watching tour,” he said. “Being able to see it on land is one thing; when it’s touching the ocean, it’s quite an exciting time.”
Turpin spent part of a hectic Sunday morning on a video shoot for the Weather Channel.
An experienced tour operator, Turpin has learned to react quickly to opportunity.
“I’ve been following this volcano my whole life, and I’ve stopped trying to predict it,” he said. “I just sit here and enjoy it when it’s happening.”
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters manager Chelsea Nichols said business at the Hilo location increased over the weekend with people interested in viewing the relatively rare event.
The eruption in Kilauea’s middle east rift zone started on Jan. 3, 1983, and has continued with few interruptions at Puu Oo Cone or from vents within a few kilometers to the east and west, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
On Sept. 21, 2011, a fissure eruption on the east flank of Puu Oo drained lava lakes and fed a flow that passed through the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision and into the ocean.
The lava entered the ocean in December, but the flow stopped in January and hadn't reached the ocean again until this weekend.