a. EPS students were able to do just that in Hawaii. Granted, the surface of the lava lake cooled several decades ago, but it’s amazing to imagine what Kilauea Iki looked like while the nearby Pu’u Pua’i vent of Kilauea was actively spewing lava for 36 days in 1959. The EPS students that followed the Kilauea Iki trail descended through a lush forest onto the floor of the lava lake, conducted a vegetation survey on the new lava, peered into holes drilled down into the cooling lava, and climbed over piles of rock near the vent.
b. 360 Video: 26; 360 Photo: 27—Descending the crater rim to Kilauea Iki (8/20/16) Kilauea Iki (or “little” Kilauea) began actively erupting from a vent on the western edge of the crater (Pu’u Pua’i). The crater (topographic depression) itself was not formed by the 1959 eruption, but the lava flows from the eruption filled the crater with a lava lake up to 120 m deep that cooled slowly over many years. The thick vegetation on the crater rim and wall, as shown in this video, are in stark contrast to the mostly barren lava floors at the floor of the crater shown in the next videos.
c. 360 Video: 29, 30, 31; 360 Photo: 32—Kilauea Iki Trail-East side (8/20/16) From here you can get a sense of the scale of the lava lake. The lava lake is up to about 120 m (400 ft.) deep below your feet. You might notice a feature called the “black ledge” on the margins of the lake, which indicates higher levels of lava. The floor of Kilauea Iki is an ideal place to study the establishment of plant life after the area was covered with brand new rock in 1959, and that’s exactly what EPS students did during a vegetation survey on the 2016 field trip. In the 57 years since the eruption, how much revegetation has occurred? Notice the types of vegetation that are beginning to colonize the new rock and where on the landscape these plants are growing. What will this area look like in 10 years? 100 years?
d. 360 Video: 33—Kilauea Iki Lava Lake (8/20/16) The eruptions of lava from the Pu’u Pua’i vent of Kilauea occurred for only 36 days, between November 14 and December 20, 1959. Huge volumes of lava poured into the crater. The top, sides, and bottom of the new lava lake cooled quickly, insulating the middle of the lake. Scientists drilled holes into the lake in 1960-62, 1967, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1981, and 1988 and were able to monitor the rate of cooling. The drill holes are still visible on the lava floor today, near where this video was recorded. Scientists estimate that the lava lake did not completely crystallize (solidify) until around 1995 (35 years after it erupted). By 2002, the rock cooled to about 500°C (930°F) and is still cooling off today. Note the white streaks on the lava floor, which are caused by heat and sometimes steam, escaping from cracks and altering the rocks on the surface. More info: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/kilauea/history/1959Nov14/ http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volcanowatch/archive/2003/03_01_09.html
e. 360 Video: 34—Kilauea Iki Trail-West side On the western side of the Kilauea Iki lava lake, you can see Pu’u Pua’i, the vent for 1959 eruption, to the west. During the 1959 eruption, lava fountains as tall as 580 m (1,900 ft.) erupted from this vent, spilling onto the crater floor. As lava and cinder piled up around the vent, the new pu’u (hill) grew taller. Sometimes fragments of the new cinder cone broke off and slid into the vent. More info: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/kilauea/history/1959Nov14/
f. 360 Video: 42, 43 (close up); 360 Photo: 41—Devastation Trail This area was devastated by the 1959 eruption of Kilauea. Prior to the eruption, this area was covered with a dense rainforest (see video 26). The round hill to the north is Pu’u Pua’i (‘gushing hill’), a cinder cone that was formed during the eruption as fountains of lava rained down bits of lava around the vent. Students paused along this trail to try and find Pele’s hair (threads of volcanic glass) or Pele’s tears (teardrop-shaped pieces of volcanic glass formed by lava cooling as it flies through the air).
Figure 1: Alicia Juang takes note of the surface of the lava lake and the elevated rim around the edge left by higher lava levels.
Figure 2: EPS concentrator Matt Moody examines lava rock with a hand lens.
Figure 3: EPS students examine blocks of lava flows near Pu’u Pua’i.
Figure 4: Maggie Powell (left) and EPS students mark out an area for a vegetation survey on the relatively fresh lava surface.
Figure 5: A student proudly displays some examples of Pele’s tears found along the Devastation Trail near Kilauea Iki.