Science Adventures

with Dr Gareth Francis

Adventures with Lava on the Volcano in Hawaii


with Dr Gareth Francis

There are so many interesting places in the worksd to visit to engage with real science and I hope to visit quite a few and tell you about them. Over the summer I went on a trip to visit volcanos on the Island of Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Hawaii's Big Island is the newest island to form and has two active volcanoes: Kīlauea (one of the world's most active volcanoes) and Mauna Loa, the world's most massive shield volcano. I hiked across Kilauea Iki Crater which is an older part, off to the east of the Kileauea volcano. We went on a 4 mile hike across the surface of the crater, it was like walking across the moon! Here are some photos of it. 

Later I also hiked one and a half hours over older lava fields to get to some new lava which is currently erupting and travelling down to the sea, where it produces plumes of steam as it is cooled by the sea. You can see the light from the lava at night beat see the picture below as the lava enters the sea. This lava is making new land on the coast of Hawaii as it cools.

After a long bike ride across old lava fields and a long hike up a lava hill, we found some new hot lava and watched it oozing across the old lava field. We could get quite close. We could feel the heat and see the air shimmering with hear as we approached. Here are some photos of molten lava slowly covering the older lava beneath it.

 I found a spade and investigated the lava by picking it up and stretching it. It is really sticky, viscous and hot and it was difficult to remove from the spade afterwards. Don’t do this at home it is very hot and dangerous. We could hear the lava crackling and spitting as is creeps along the ground.

This type of viscous flowing lava makes beautiful shapes as it cools, almost like ribbons, quite amazing! see one example below. You can image the lava folding into these shapes and it oozes across the rocks and is frozen like that for ever. This is why I love lava and volcanos and think they are fascinating.

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