BOOM! Halemaumau Explodes

THROWBACK THURSDAY • 1924 • 2018 Explosions
Posted May 10, 2018.

Kilauea Explodes 5-9-18
Ash column rises from the Overlook crater at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano. HVO’s interpretation is that the explosion was triggered by a rockfall from the steep walls of Overlook crater. The photograph was taken at 8:29 a.m. HST on May 9, 2018 from the Jaggar Museum overlook. The explosion was short-lived. Geologists examining the ash deposits on the rim of Halema‘uma‘u crater found fresh lava fragments hurled from the lava lake. This explosion was not caused by the interaction of the lava lake with the water table. When the ash cleared from the crater about an hour after the explosion, geologists were able to observe the lava lake surface, which is still above the water table.

Halemaumau crater exploded early yesterday morning (May 9) after rocks fell into the ever deepening lava lake. The explosion produced a huge cloud that floated thousands of feet into the air. Hawaii Volcano Observatory (HVO) scientists are alerting the public to expect a larger explosion at the Kilauea summit, similar to one that happened in 1924. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will close indefinitely starting tomorrow (Friday), May 11 to protect the public from large falling rocks should a bigger explosion happen.

From the HVO bulletin of May 9, 2018:

Volcanic Activity Summary: The steady lowering of the lava lake in “Overlook crater” within Halemaʻumaʻu at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano has raised the potential for explosive eruptions in the coming weeks. If the lava column drops to the level of groundwater beneath Kīlauea Caldera, influx of water into the conduit could cause steam-driven explosions. Debris expelled during such explosions could impact the area surrounding Halemaʻumaʻu and the Kīlauea summit. At this time, we cannot say with certainty that explosive activity will occur, how large the explosions could be, or how long such explosive activity could continue.

Residents of the Kīlauea summit area should learn about the hazards of ashfall, stay informed of the status of the volcano and area closures, and review family and business emergency plans.

Resource on volcanic ash hazards:

Read the full summary: HVO-USGS5-9-2018

UPDATE: USGS East Rift Zone Community Meeting –  Want to know more about the possibility of a Kilauea volcano explosion and ash fallout? Watch this informative video of last night’s (May 9) public  meeting.

UPDATE: Disaster Brewing at the Kilauea Summit? – Honolulu Star Advertiser article. 5-10-2018

Meanwhile the East Rift Zone eruption continues at various fronts near the Leilani Estates subdivision and the Puna Geothermal Ventures power plant. As of this posting, 15 fissures have opened in the Leilani Estates area spewing more lava that has destroyed at least 36 structures, 27 of them homes. Many residents had to be evacuated with some already losing their homes, while others wait in anxiety wondering if their homes will be spared.

VIDEO: Ikaika Marzo SO2 killing trees | Opihikau – downslope from Leilani Estates eruption.

Visit our Hawaii Volcano Videos and links page for the latest updates.

May 9, 2018: At 13:00 p.m. HST. Aerial view from the Hawaii County Fire Department of fissure 15. The fissure cut across Pohoiki Road.

The following photos are from the May 9, 1924 Kilauea explosion.

09:13 Explosion cloud. May 24, 1924. [photo caption] Tai Sing Loo 1065. Explosion cloud, Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii National Park. 9:13 a.m. May 24, 1924. [While this photo label indicates the time as 09:13 that is the time that this explosive sequence begins. Based on other photos taken the same day and the Record Book notations it appears more likely that the actual time of the photo was towards the end of the explosions, somewhere around 09:20.This Tai Sing Loo image, featured in the Honolulu Star Bulletin of May 26, 1924. Caption: “The crowd of visitors off the Haleakala and Matsonia Saturday morning witnessing an eruption from in front of the Volcano House. They were warned subsequently by Roy H. Finch, in charge of the observatory, that it was unwise to remain there.” ]
More information and photos below the fold.

1924 Kilauea Explosion (Continued)

{Children with 8-ton boulder, black & white [This appears to be the 8 ton block ejected onto Sand Spit close to the edge of the Italian Cliff. Photo taken after explosive eruption of 1924 which ejected the 8 ton block. Note that the child on the left stands on the edge of the impact crater. This image is almost certainly of a Tsuchiya girl and probably Margaret Boles. The photo was probably taken between 1925 and 1926 based on the ages of the children shown.]]
From the USGS website:

The May 1924 Explosive Eruption of Kīlauea

Halema‘uma‘u, the largest crater in Kīlauea Caldera, was the site of more than 50 explosive events during a 2.5-week period in May 1924. The explosions were then, and remain today, the most powerful at Kīlauea since the early 19th century, throwing blocks weighing as much as 14 tons from the crater. Halema‘uma‘u doubled in diameter, deepened to about 400 m (1300 ft), and drastically changed in behavior—for the next 85 years it no longer hosted a long-lived lava lake, until one returned in 2009.

Read the complete story at this link:

Archival Video: Explosive Hawaii volcano eruption of 1924 (Big Island Now)

[This photo is featured in the May, 1924, Monthly Bulletin with the caption:”Figure 12. May 18, 11:15 a.m. Detail of the a maximum explosion taken from Uwekahuna. Note uprush on the right, impact puffs on the Kilauea floor, cascade trajectories of falling showers of rock on the left. Note the vortical roll where these strike the floor. This is the action that destroyed St. Pierre. Photo Maehara. On the other hand this photo is also featured in the May 25, 1924 Honolulu Advertiser on p. 16, with a caption that indicates that the image was taken at 11:20 a.m.


Melvin Ah Ching is a photographer, consultant, blogger, desktop publisher, and computer enthusiast living and working in Hawaii. The Hawaii Files have been online since 2006.