The Wai‘ōpae Tide Pools

One of the most beautiful places on the island is gone.

Hawaiian Damselfish (Dascyllus albisella)
A Hawaiian Damselfish (Dascyllus albisella) in a pool at Wai‘ōpae
The Wai‘ōpae Tide Pools were a place where anyone could see the wonders of a coral reef. The calm and protected pools full of fish and lush coral. You could see damselfish hovering over a coral head or watch small barracuda hunt just under the surface.

And they were popular, on any given day a couple dozen locals and tourists could be seen exploring the pools. You could swim across one or two, then have to climb across a few feet of old pahoehoe lava to drop into the next. The more adventurous were rewarded with even richer coral in the outermost pools where the ocean waves created more challenging swimming conditions.

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61G Flow

61G lava flow this morning, first time I have been out since the shelf collapse, what a difference, it just pours out of the tube. There is a small fragment of the old shelf, it continues to collapse, heard and watched a couple truck sized chunks fall out of it and into the surf.

Did another dawn attack, arriving at the flow about 2am, staying until after sunrise. The new rope line is stupidly far back, so far back no one was honoring it. I stayed about 200-300 yards away, but saw folks on the top of the cliff over the tube where I had seen glowing globs land just half an hour before.

61G Lava Flow
The 61G flow after the shelf collapse on 15 Jan 2017

To the Flow by Sea

There are four ways to get to the lava… You can hike it, you can bike it, fly to it, or go by sea. I had done all of the other ways, it was time to take a boat.

Lava from the Kilauea volcano enters the ocean at Kamokuna

The 61G lava flow has been flowing into the sea at Kamokuna for several months now allowing the lava tour boat business to resume after a three year pause. I have biked to this flow, but a view from the water was an attractive option for photography. After multiple discussions with a few photographers I know I had decided to go out with Kalapana Cultural Tours, a local business with years of experience on these waters, a choice which proved to be a good one!

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The Advance of Pāhoehoe Lava Flows

An excellent video showing how pāhoehoe lava flows advance. A flow is a surprisingly complex process. A quick look or photograph will fail to reveal what it going on, it takes time to observe something that occurs this slowly. I have spent hours watching and filming flow fronts advance, totally amazed at what I saw when I really watched…

Time lapse shows the process more clearly than watching in person. It is the inflation of a pāhoehoe flow that shows in a compressed timescale. A flow a foot or two thick becomes six or ten feet thick over the course of a few hours. Also revealed are how other features of the flow form… The ropy surface, the broken plates, the cracks where lava has oozed out. After having watched a flow in process I see old lava flows in an entirely new way.

Below is an old video, filmed over several visits to the lava during the summer of 2010. I have better material now. Some time I need to put it together into a new video. Still, you can see the process of breakout, advance, crust over, inflate, then breakout again.

Flowing Rock from Andrew Cooper on Vimeo

I have yet to have an opportunity to see an ʻaʻā flow advancing. They move entirely differently. I understand the sound of an ʻaʻā flow is impressive, a moving gravel pile of grinding and falling rock.