Big News for Big Island Lava Viewers

If you’ve been tracking the Big Island lava activity, you’ll want to read-on — there’s lots to talk about!

New Big Island Lava Viewing Area

Just a few weeks ago, some risk-taking spectators experienced a VERY close-call when a 22-acre lava delta collapsed into the ocean, taking a key lava viewing area with it. But, it’s not all bad news — according to Hawaii News Now, a new viewing area has opened.

The news station reports that National Park Service rangers finished roping off the site about two weeks ago, and it’s now open for spectators. The new viewing area is about 900 feet east of a cascade of lava pouring into the ocean, and about 60 feet inland of the coastal cliffs.

Keep in mind, though, the same safety measures remain. Visitors are being strongly urged to stay out of closed areas and heed all posted warning signs.

The new viewing area is about 900 feet east of a cascade of lava pouring into the ocean, and about 60 feet inland of the coastal cliffs.

“Visitors who do not heed warnings not only endanger themselves, but the lives of others, including our park angers,” Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando, told reporters.

During the lava delta collapse on New Year’s Eve, rangers closed the lava viewing area But despite that, five visitors ran out to the coastal cliffs. Rangers chased after them and forced them to turn back. Within 15 minutes, the section of cliff where they were standing crashed into the ocean.

“When the rocks fell, it created some very substantial waves. The water actually reached the top of that cliff from the waves. Then people started to panic,” California visitor Brooks Taylor told Hawaii News Now.

Perhaps for good reason — lava deltas are formed when lava enters the ocean and builds new land on loose and unstable substrate. In addition to potentially collapsing, it can produce a highly corrosive plume of hydrochloric acid and volcanic particles that could be detrimental to the health.

Possible Regulations for Lava Boat Tours

According to Hawaii News Now, the National Park Service now says lava boats are raising concerns about safety.

Ever since the collapse of the lava delta at Kamokuna on New Year’s Eve, the park service has been keeping hikers 1,000 feet away, and the FAA is keeping all nearby aircraft above 1,000 feet, the station reports.

But, there’s lots of confusion over lava boat tours and which agency has jurisdiction over the activity.

Ed Underwood, state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean administrator, told reporters that, while the state has not jurisdiction over tour boats, there are ongoing discussions about potential rule-making.

The newest flow had attracted thousands of visitors to the Big Island. To catch a glimpse, you need to hike, take a plane, or go by lava boat.

Meanwhile, tour boat operators told the news station they’re operating legally — and safely.

“When we get to the site, we assess it, and we do what we find safest for our guests,” Shane Turpin with Lava Ocean Tours told Hawaii News Now.

The company has been taking visitors to lava shows like this for more than a decade, and Turpin added the company has had no serious safety issues.

“Many times, when these avalanches occur, steam occurs around the eruption. And the hot steam is just that. It’s hot steam,” he told Hawaii News Now.

But the park service says ocean tours are taking big risks.

In a letter, the NPS said “boats have been observed going into and through the plume generated by the ocean entry. This is a serious safety hazard due to fine volcanic particles and hazardous gases.”

What does that mean for visitors hoping to get a glimpse of the Big Island lava? It’s more important than ever that you choose a tour operator who keeps safety as a top priority. Hawaii Aloha Travel offers not only lava boat tours, but lava helicopter tours and lava walking tours as well. And, the company always keeps your safety in mind!