Lava is creeping towards a Hawaii freeway. History reveals that stopping it is not simple


Prayer, bombs, partitions — over the many years, folks have tried all of them to stanch the circulate of lava from Hawaii’s volcanoes because it lumbered towards roads, properties and infrastructure.

Now Mauna Loa, the world’s largest energetic volcano, is erupting once more, and lava is slowly approaching a significant thoroughfare connecting the Big Island’s east and west sides. And as soon as extra, persons are asking if something will be executed to cease or divert the circulate.

“It comes up every time there’s an eruption and there’s lava heading towards [inhabited] areas or highways. Some people say, ‘Build a wall’ or ‘Board up,’ and other people say, ‘No, don’t,’” mentioned Scott Rowland, a geologist on the University of Hawaii.

Humans have hardly ever had a lot success stopping lava; regardless of technological advances, doing so stays troublesome and depending on the power of the circulate and the terrain. But many in Hawaii additionally query the knowledge of interfering with nature and Pele, the Hawaiian deity of volcanoes and fireplace.

Attempts to divert lava have a protracted and colourful historical past in Hawaii.

In 1881, the governor of Hawaii Island declared a day of prayer to cease lava from Mauna Loa because it headed for Hilo. The lava saved coming.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Princess Regent Lili’uokalani and her division heads went to Hilo and regarded methods to avoid wasting the city. They developed plans to construct obstacles to divert the circulate and place dynamite alongside a lava tube to empty the molten rock provide.

Princess Ruth Ke’elikōlani approached the circulate, provided brandy and crimson scarves and chanted, asking Pele to cease the circulate and go dwelling. The circulate stopped earlier than the obstacles have been constructed.

More than 50 years later, Thomas A. Jaggar, the founding father of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, requested U.S. Army Air Services to ship planes to bomb a Mauna Loa vent to disrupt lava channels.

Lt. Col. George S. Patton, who later turned well-known as a basic in Europe throughout World War II, directed planes to drop a rating of 600-pound demolition bombs, in keeping with a National Park Service account of the marketing campaign. The bombs every had 355 kilos of TNT. The planes additionally dropped 20 smaller bombs that had solely black powder cost.

Jaggar mentioned the bombing helped to “hasten the end of the flow,” however Howard Stearns, a U.S. Geological Survey geologist on board the final bombing run, was uncertain. In his 1983 autobiography, he wrote: “I am sure it was a coincidence.”

According to the park service, geologists right now are also uncertain that the bombing stopped the lava circulate, which didn’t finish with the bombing. Instead, the flows waned over the subsequent few days and didn’t change paths.

Rowland mentioned authorities might use a bulldozer to pile a giant berm of damaged rock in entrance of Daniel Ok. Inouye Highway. If the terrain is flat, then lava would pile up behind the wall. But the lava might circulate over it, because it did when one thing related was tried in Kapoho city in 1960.

Rapidly transferring lava flows, like these from Kilauea volcano in 2018, could be tougher to cease, he mentioned.

“It would have been really hard to build the walls fast enough for them. And they were heading towards groups of homes. And so you would perhaps be sacrificing some homes for others, which would just be a legal mess,” he mentioned.

He mentioned he believes most individuals in Hawaii wouldn’t need to construct a wall to guard the freeway as a result of it will “mess with Pele.”

If lava crosses the freeway, Rowland mentioned officers might rebuild that part of the street as they did in 2018 when totally different routes have been affected.

Hawaii County’s director of civil protection, Talmadge Magno, mentioned Wednesday taht the county has no plans to attempt to divert the circulate, although he has had some discussions about it.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige, who was governor through the 2018 Kilauea eruption, advised reporters that his expertise confirmed him it’s not potential to beat nature and Pele.

Thinking you need to bodily divert lava is a Western concept rooted within the notion that people have to regulate every part, mentioned Kealoha Pisciotta, a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner. She mentioned folks want to regulate to the lava, not the opposite approach round.

“We are not separate from nature,” she mentioned. “We are a part of nature.”


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