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Kilauea lava flow elicits crowds, smiles

  • MICK KALBER / TROPICAL VISIONS VIDEO This frame grab from a video posted on the Paradise Helicopters website shows what appears to be a smiley face in a lava lake at the summit of Puu Oo vent Wednesday.

    Lava from a vent at Kilauea Volcano reaches the ocean for the first time since August 2013.

Is the volcano goddess Pele smiling?

Volcano videographer Mick Kalber, of Tropical Visions Video, captured this image on video of what appears to be a crooked smiley face in the lava lake at Puu Oo vent on Wednesday, a day after lava reached the ocean from the Puu Oo.

The cracks of bright molten lava in the lake are formed as lava circulates and the black, semi-solid lake surface pulls apart.

At the Kamokuna ocean entry, the sight of the lava falling over a steep ocean cliff to the sea has attracted thousands of visitors.

Geologists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported that the lava flow into the ocean widened slightly this morning along the west margin of the front to about 66 feet across.

Video taken from a tour helicopter Wednesday shows lava covering rocks at the bottom of the cliff and a black sand beach near the ocean entry.

Keaka Hunter, a security guard patrolling the area at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, said about 2,000 people came to see the flow Monday night, hours before the lava entered the ocean for the first time in nearly three years. Previous days drew an average of about 1,000 people.

The U.S. Geological Survey is cautioning visitors about safety risks, which include flying debris and acidic plume containing fine volcanic particles that can irritate the eyes, skin and lungs. The new land may also be unstable because it’s built on unconsolidated lava fragments and sand, which can easily be eroded by surf.

Visitors hoping to catch the picturesque views have hiked the more than 4-mile route along a gravel road to get a closer look. Signs posted at the Kalapana entrance warn visitors to bring plenty of water and “be ready a long hard hike.”

Derek Scott, a 16-year-old visitor from Canada, was one of those who made the journey through the county viewing area and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to catch a glimpse of the lava flow from Kilauea’s Puu Oo vent.

“It was nice with the wind, but it was still really hot, so it was a long walk for us,” Scott told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. “But it was really cool seeing the lava flow. I’ve never actually seen it that close by. The heat that radiates off the body when you’re that close to it is amazing.”


Star-Advertiser web producer Craig Gima contributed to this story.

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