In this July 2016 image taken from video provided by the United States Geological Survey, the lava lake atop Kilauea volcano erupts on Hawaii’s Big Island. Federal officials released new high definition video of the lava lake atop the active volcano on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, providing a rare close-up glimpse of the powerful summit eruption. (United States Geological Survey via AP)
New video shows spectacular lava lake
October 12, 2016
A high-definition camera pans across the surface of an active Hawaii volcano's viscous summit lava lake. A large bubble of volcanic gas grows. Then it bursts. Molten rock dramatically spews into the air. It sends a massive ripple of lava outward across the crater.
Federal officials have released high-definition video of the lava lake. It is atop Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. The video provides a rare close-up glimpse of the powerful summit eruption. It was shot in stunning 4K ultra high definition video.
The U.S. Geological Survey footage shows lava breaking through the crusted mantle of the lava lake on the Big Island. The lava splashes up the crater walls. Aerial footage shows lava glowing through the cracks of the slightly hardened crust atop the flowing and bubbling lava.
USGS video producer Stephen Wessells, geologist Janet Babb and other scientists worked along the edge of the volcano's massive summit. They wore gas masks and other protective gear to capture the images. At times, they were only a few hundred feet away from the lava lake.
"It was the greatest shooting experience of my life," said Wessells. He has been producing video for USGS since 1990. "It was just spectacular."
The summit eruption has been happening since March 2008. That's when federal officials closed the area to the public.
Babb told The Associated Press that the area is full of hazards. Gasses are emitted from the volcano. These can swirl around in the strong trade winds on the summit. They can be life threatening, said Babb. Additionally, "rocks from the vent wall will fall apart and fall into the lava lake. And when they do, there's a big gas release, this big kind of bubble burst. And it will hurl fragments of molten lava...up onto the crater rim."
The team was reminded of this danger when a filming location was covered in hot spatter. That took place just a week after they were there.
"It was a very sobering moment," Babb said.
Kilauea has an extensive history of eruptions. Most of Kilauea's activity has been nonexplosive. But a 1924 eruption spewed ash and 10-ton rocks into the sky. They left a man dead.
A vent adjacent to the summit known as Puu Oo recently erupted. Lava was sent trickling down the mountainside. It ended up in the Pacific Ocean. This was first time it reached the sea in several years.
A 1983 Puu Oo eruption resulted in lava fountains. Some of the fountains soared more than 1,500 feet high. In the decades since, the lava flow has buried 48 square miles of land. It has destroyed many homes.
In 2008, after a series of small earthquakes rattled the island, Kilauea's summit crater opened. It gushed lava and rock over 75 acres of the mountain. A nearby visitor overlook was destroyed.
The video just released is the highest resolution footage the agency has ever captured of the lava lake. It will be included in a longer documentary. The video is about the history of the volcano. The footage will be shown around the 10th anniversary of the current eruption. That will be in 2018.
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