Pele Meets the Sea
Part II: Still Photographs of Active Lava
Activity at the surface
There are many other things that have been observed by University of
Hawaii scientists working just off-shore from the lava entry points.
Here we have a series of still photographs that show some of these
phenomena, both on the surface and underwater!
Floating rocks are frequently seen in the water in front of the shoreline
lava flows. They form from the spattering that occurs when the molten lava
touches the water. The resulting porous rocks are hot enough that sea
water entering them is instantly converted to steam, which keeps the rocks
buoyant. The floating rocks will sizzle and spin in the water for several
minutes, until they cool and eventually sink to the sea floor.
In order to see more of what is happening to the lava flows at the coast,
we have to put on scuba gear and go diving! As divers swim down to the
underwater flows, they frequently must deal with murky water filled with
small particles of volcanic glass.
The fracturing of cooling lava by the seawater results in the production of
large quantities of sharp glassy debris, ranging in size from fine
particles to small boulders. The bottom is very steep here, its slope
ranging from 30 to 45 degrees. As a result, there is a constant sliding of
bottom sediments down the slope, along with frequent slumping events which
transport large volumes of sediment, plus rocks and boulders, downslope.
In addition to having to contend with flowing red lava, underwater
explosions and landslides of razor-sharp lava rocks, the scuba divers have
one additional worry - floating lava rocks all eventually sink.
[top of this page]
[Beginning of Pele Meets the Sea]
Diving and video movie: Richard Pyle, Jane Culp,
Gordon Tribble, Jane Tribble, David Schideler, Kevin Kelly, John
Earle, Randall Kosaki;
Digitization and HTML presentation:
Cristina Lumpkin and Pierre Flament
To see some related photos and for references to some more
information that may be of interest, please check out the link
to Frank Sansone's web page on our