Eruptive activity began to wane at the end of last week,with the lava fountains diminishing, then disappearing over the weekend. Views in the webcams showed a steady decrease in activity at fissure 3 over the course of several days.
At this point no lava appears to be emerging onto the surface, with only a few dribbles left in the lava flow to be seen as minor glows across the flank of the mauna.
Oddly Kilauea, after erupting continuously for over a year seems also to have paused. There is no longer any visible lava or even a glow within the Halemauʻmauʻu crater.
On the way home in the eve the red glow dominates the horizon. Going to work the next morning it is the plume on the skyline. The eruption is ever present.
When moving to the island fifteen years ago I had looked at the mauna and thought to myself… One day you will erupt, will it be during my time on the island? This though has occured to me many times in the intervening years… When hiking the lava flows in the saddle, when driving up and down Mauna Kea to work looking across at the many flows streaking the flanks of Mauna Loa. How many times have I looked up and wondered when? One day.
I am not certain what woke me up at one AM, but I was awake. Before going back to sleep I decided to check the satellite photos to see if I might get some telescope time before dawn. But what I found online had me totally awake and grabbing a couple batteries for the camera.
Mauna Loa has awoken.
I was soon driving out from the house to a point above the village with a clear view of the mauna. The whole southern sky an angry red over the village as I drove. I did not have to drive far, just a couple minutes from the house where you can find a clear view. Pulling off I set up the camera and shot.
I was not the only one out, half a dozen cars could be seen stopped along Waikoloa Road to view the eruption. The whole mauna is lit up red and it looks like the west flank is erupting, not just the caldera as Civil Defense currently insists. Just the clouds lit up on that side?
Life is intertesting.
Update: By dawn much of the caldera has flooded with lava. Scale is hard to see in the photos, you have to recall that the caldera is almost two miles across and three miles from end to end.
Update 9:11am: The eruption has already migrated to a series of fissures on the northeast flank. The typical Mauna Loa eruption script is a summit caldera eruption followed by a flank eruption a few days, or a few weeks later. We have just seen that happen in a few hours.
I am including a couple photos here taken by a co-worker as she commuted across the saddle this morning at dawn. You can already see the lava flows making their way into the saddle…
Earthquake activity is on a bit of an uptick around here. While the mag 3.9 that woke us up a few nights ago was probably just a settling event under Mauna Kea, much of the remaining activity is under Mauna Loa. This includes a 3.7 magnitude event last night, part of an ongoing swarm under the long mountian.
Mauna Loa’s activity has remained elevated for some weeks now. There are two swarm centers. One directly under the caldera, but more interestingly a persistent swarm under the northwest flank a few kilometers away.
All of this has the island buzzing with concern. On social media, in the local papers, Mauna Loa is the subject of much speculation. The official line is that no eruption is imminent, but officials are quick to remind residents to monitor local emergency channels and have an evaculation plan at the ready.
A couple weeks ago at the volcano I let quite a few folks take imagery of the lava using the afocal technique, simply holding the phone up to the eyepiece. This works rather well as the phone uses a lens much like the human eye, about the same aperture.
The only real issue is holding a phone in just the right spot. Folks wanted video, but holding the phone steady is a real challenge. I had thought of making something to do this many times, last weekend I did it.
A session of playing around in 3D CAD resulting in a couple bits of clever plastic printed with the 3D printer… Done.
There are commercial solutions for this available, quite a few actually. But most of these are intended to adapt to a single phone, using some sort of clamping arrangement that you have to setup for a particular phone. I envisioned something that was more universal, quickly adapting to any phone.
The method I chose was a sliding magnetic platform that holds the phone. Just a simple shelf actually, set the phone on it and slide until you get it lined up. The base piece is printed with a recess into which a steel plate is set. The slider has three 8mm x 2mm neodymium magnets to securely grab the steel plate.
It took a bit of work to cut and file the steel plate to neatly fit the base, a bit of inlay work. Otherwise making the piece is quite easy. The only design issue is that this adapter is setup to fit a single eyepiece, a Televue Panoptic 27mm, and cannot be easily adapted to others.
The 3D CAD files are linked below. I have included the SCAD source file to allow tinkering with the design, possibly adapting to a different eyepiece. Both parts should be printed with support on, the pockets for the glued bits will have to be cleaned out, the resulting rough surfaces just right to recieve epoxy.
At the Keanakakoʻi Overlook I was able to test the adapter with a variety of different phones, both iPhone and Android, graciously lent to me for my experimentation. OK, the owners may have wanted a few lava photos. There was no difficulty using the adapter other than a moment or two needed to line up the camera with the exit pupil of the eyepiece. The result was more than a few smiles.
Watching the current eruption at Kilauea where the western vent fountains and churns leaves one with a practical understanding of how a spatter cone or spatter rampart forms. The blobs and globs of lava land around the vent where they cool. This builds up a substantial edifice around the vent.
The process is illuminating to watch in this current eruption. Every few minutes a large spash or jet of lava escapes the boiling caldron in the middle. The lava spashes across the ground around the vent. At first bright orange, the splash slowly cools and fades to deep red, then dark at it solidifies. The spatter cone is just a little bit bigger.
The spatter cone grows and changes shape daily. Visiting the eruption after a couple weeks one finds the cone drastically reshaped and much larger. Occasional a side will collapse and the process begins anew.
While it might seem fun to get a closer look at the current vent, this idea is also a quick way to die, the gasses and heat would quickly kill anyone who approached too closely.
Once was not enough, I had to do it again. The allure of lava too much I planned yet another run across island in the middle of the night to see the lava at Kilauea.
This time Deb would come along, mistakenly agreeing to to 0130 alarm clock and possibly regretting it as she climbed out of bed. Thus we drove through the night passing through the park gates a little before 4am.
A larger crowd greeted us this time. The parking lot was lamost half full and there were more folks passing us on the walk out to the viewpoint.
This trip would feature a bit of moonlight over the caldera rather than the dark skies of two weeks ago, a quarter moon in the eastern sky. I had hoped for a few thin moonlit clouds to use in the compositions, but this did not happen. The morning was completely cloud free over the caldera, and nearly calm, the plume rising striaght up from the lava.
The usual plan… A 2am departure from the house, a 4am arrival at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, at the lava while it is still full dark, enjoy the show through the dawn, then go find breakfast.
Exiting the vehicle after the long drive I was greeted by a serene silence and bright stars. Orion and the Pleiades were bright and directly overhead. I had to pause and just breathe in the damp forest smells, gazing upwards to the heavens.
There were another half dozen vehicles in the large parking lot at Devastation Trail. I was not going to be alone at the viewpoint, but it was not going to be crowded either. Reports online have mentioned large crowds in the evening, with even the Park Service recommending a morning visit.