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Lava closing in on Pohoiki boat ramp at Isaac Hale Park

  • COURTESY USGS

    Several lobes of fissure 8 lava are entering the ocean along a broad front, with the southwestern edge of the entry shown here. In this photo from Wednesday, the southern margin of the lava flow was about 0.4 mile from the Pohoiki boat ramp. USGS now says it is about 0.3 mile from the ramp.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported today that the lava flow from Kilauea’s Lower East Rift Zone was last observed 0.3 mile from Pohoiki boat ramp at Isaac Hale Park.

Whether the boat ramp will be gone by day’s end, however, remains unknown, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

“There’s no way to forecast that,” said USGS geologist Janet Babb during a press briefing today. “It really depends on events of the lava, which can change at any time. It can slow down, speed up. We’re watching it closely.”

Access to the boat ramp at Pohoiki has been blocked by the lava flows for weeks, and is no longer available as a launch point for lava boat tours and commercial fishermen. Many are lamenting the imminent loss of the recreational area, popular for fishing, boating, surfing and other ocean activities.

Fissure 8, meanwhile, continues to erupt lava into the perched channel leading northeast from the vent. The lava levels in the channel appeared low this morning, with no overflows noted, according to USGS.

Lava continues to ooze out at a few points along the 3.7-mile side flow front into the ocean.

The ocean entry remains a hazardous area, due to the interaction of lava with the ocean creating “laze,” a corrosive, seawater plume laden with hydrochloric acid and fine, volcanic particles that can drift downwind and irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs.

Also, the meeting of molten lava with cool seawater results in “littoral explosions,” or “hydrovolcanic explosions,” which result in flying debris. On Monday, one of these explosions lobbed a flying lava bomb — a little large than a basketball — through a lava tour boat’s metal roof, injuring 23 passengers.

These explosions can occur from beneath the ocean, possibly after the molten, lava flow entered at sea level, then sunk below the surface, or at the entry point, according to USGS. The meeting of the two elements creates steam, causing the explosions.

“Basically, any time lava enters the ocean, there’s the possibility of an explosive interaction,” said Babb. “When lava flows into the ocean, and conditions are ripe, you can get these hydrovolcanic explosions, and they can be small and large.”

Another collapse explosion at the Kilauea summit, meanwhile, is expected sometime soon following the last one at 1:28 a.m. Wednesday. The collapse explosions occur about 30 hours apart.

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