It is a type of igneous rock.
The kind of rock that forms when volcanic magma cools quickly. These photos were taken during our trip to the Big Island of Hawaii several years ago, when the Kilauea volcano on the southern end of the island was not erupting. (Boo – we wanted to see some volcanic action!) However, we were able to visit the area and walk on the hardened lava that made its way over paved roads, approaching the southern tip of the island. But we couldn’t walk but very far. There were warning signs to not go beyond a certain point as we approached the shoreline. Why?
We have volcanoes where I come from, but not like this. Kilauea is a shield volcano that is doing its part to make the big island of Hawaii the fastest growing island in the world. Called ‘lava flow 61g’, it has been spewing lava on the southeastern section of the Big Island on and off since 1983. At this rate, in another 100 years, the Big Island is going to get hundreds of acres bigger. When the hot lava reaches the ocean, it can create quite the light show.
Dramatic, thick beds of hardened magma stretch past where the island ends and adds to the total sqaure footage of the Big Island. Even though the volcano was not currently erupting, there is always the danger that it could start up again at any moment, and so park officials had plenty of barricades up in certain areas, and you could only drive up to a certain point, because previous lava flows spread out over the existing roads, and hardened there for all eternity.
I was surreal walking on these petrified magma beds. As my feet navigated the bumpy, uneven surface, I imagined with great tripedation that what I was walking on was (not long ago) a flowing hot river of death. Acres of desolate rock that killed everything in its path. Like walking on the moon!
A few weeks after our trip, the lava flows started up again, and it is estimated that the cooled magma adds upwards of a few acres of land a decade. For an up-to-the-minute look at what Kilauea is doing, visit the National Park Service’s Hawaii Volcanoes website.
Lava in the middle of the road.