Less than 72 hours after 30 acres of volcanic rock collapsed into the sea, a new lava viewing area has opened at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. However, the trek to the site is tough.
Over several hours on New Year’s Eve, the chunk of land known as a “lava delta” — the point at which red hot lava turns rock hard when it reaches the cool, ocean water — fractured and crashed into the Pacific Ocean.
The dramatic collapse created tsunami-like waves and sent plumes of rock and toxic steam soaring hundreds of feet into the sky.
Park rangers on Tuesday created a new viewing area — the other one crumpled on Saturday — and have put up ropes and signs designating where it’s considered safe for visitors to observe the flow of molten rock from the Puu Oo lava tube. The remote location within the national park became an overnight visitor attraction when streams of red lava reached the ocean last July.
Scientists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory helped rangers scour the remaining land to determine a safe perimeter for tourists. The observatory provides regular updates on eruptions from the Kilauea volcano. Ironically, January is Volcano Awareness Month on Hawaii Island.
A park spokesperson reminds visitors that reaching the new observation point isn’t easy. The shortest hike is from the east edge of the park near the town of Kalapana. The 4.2-mile journey — that’s one way — will have you walking on uneven, often-sharp lava.
Tips on hiking within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are provided online.
People with respiratory problems may wish to avoid the trip due to the acidic gas belching from the lava. The local air quality is regularly monitored and reported online. Due to the gases billowing into the air, restrictions remain on air traffic above the site.