Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lava Flow


August 15 update from Hawaii Volcano Observatory:
"Lava continues to flow through the PKK lava tube from its source on the southwest flank of Pu 'u 'O 'o to the ocean. There are currently two widely separated ocean entries, East Lae 'apuki and East Ka 'ili 'ili, that are both inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park."

Like the Universe, the Big Island is expanding. These photos were taken February 7, and are courtesy of USGS. I am atop a magma plume, an immense river of heat rising from thousands of kilometres below. The soil in Hawaii is red because of the high concentration of iron near Earth's core. Hawaii sits in the centre of a Pacific Plate moving slowly over this plume.

In school they taught that Earth's core is hot because of "radioactive decay". The red Hawaiian soil, which originates deep within the Earth, contains no unusual traces of radioactivity. Radioactive elements like Uranium and Potassium-40 are unlikely to exist in the core; they are only common in Earth's crust. Something else is keeping the core hot, causing volcanoes, earthquakes and the land we live on.

The fire goddess Pele is continually building new land. Islands in the northwest like Midway were created first, then the major islands starting at Kauai with the Big Island as the youngest. Currently Kilauea volcano on this island is highly active and still adding to the island. As with the Universe, this expansion is slowing. To the southeast, a new island is building beneath the sea. It will surface in a few thousand years.

Lava from the plume bubbles to the surface within Kilauea's crater. As it flows toward the sea, some of the lava solidifies. Beneath this rugged surface are thousands of lava tubes. Behind me is East Lae 'apuki, where lava dumps directly into the sea. This could be the endpoint of a journey fired by Hawking radiation from a tiny Black Hole.

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Your pictures are nice reminders of my own short visit to the Big Island. In addition to the tour to see the observatories we also took a helicopter tour over the entire Island and got to see the lava flowing into the ocean. I'd love to go there again someday!

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