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Lava Flow to Sea Offers Rare Sight

October 18, 1987|Associated Press

KALAPANA, Hawaii — Molten lava, covered by a thick black crust, continued pushing its way into the sea near here Saturday,sending up billowing clouds of steam and giving the public its closest look at the natural spectacle in 13 years.

Up to 2,000 visitors a day have made the half-mile trek along a trail to get to the beach within 100 feet of the 250-yard-wide flow front that began to trickle into the sea Thursday near Kupapau Point on the southeast coast of Hawaii Island.

"You can hear the waves crashing against the flow, and there's a loud hissing sound when the water turns into steam," said Candy Hoopii, 27, who works at a visitors' center nearby.

The slow-moving flow from a continuing eruption on the southeast flank of Kilauea volcano six miles away and 2,200 feet high destroyed seven homes two weeks ago.

The ocean flow and two others meandering down the slopes of Kilauea are being fed by a vent where magma is welling from the earth at a rate of some 650,000 cubic yards a day, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

The contact between the lava, with a temperature of 2,180 degrees Fahrenheit, and the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean sent up a continuous white cloud of steam.

The last time the public had a chance to closely view lava going into the ocean was during the Mauna Ulu eruption of 1969-1974.

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