December 1996

The big news recently on Kilauea is the collapsing of Puu Oo cone (where the lava lake still resides). The "Great Pit" on the north side of the cone, which started forming back in 1993, is eating its way toward the main crater. The high end of the cone is now a knife edge, and not likely to last too long. We went to check it out after HVO seismometers recorded big rockfalls at Puu Oo and our major observation was: it's a mighty unstable place. There were constant streams of rockfalls off the walls and some very hot, fumey areas at the back of the collapse pit. The rock all around that area is rotten from the heavy acidic plume out of the lava lake and makes walking pretty tricky. We have some good aerial views of the collapsed area, which is keyhole-shaped with a wide bowl in the cone and a narrow neck leading out to the deep pit known as the edisode 51 vent (we'll put a clip in soon so you can see it for yourself).

Meanwhile... the lava has been behaving very predictably, mainly staying in its well established tube system. For the most part, it is only visible right at the coast. There was a giant bench collapse December 2 which took a fairly large chunk of the coastline with it, and a new bench has been growing since.

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