Eruption of Kilauea

Eruption of Kilauea 1959 – 1960: Classic Example of Hawaiian Volcanism”. Presented by Bob Tilling, Volcanologist Emeritus, United States Geological Survey.

Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. For example, the ongoing eruption at Kilauea, which began in January 1983, shows no signs of stopping and represents the longest-lived rift-zone activity in recorded history. The 1959–1960 Kilauea eruption began with summit activity (Nov.-Dec. 1959) at Kilauea Iki Crater, followed by activity (Jan.-Feb. 1960) at Kapoho on the volcano’s East Rift Zone. Although of much shorter duration, this paired eruptive sequence was in some ways more dramatic than that at present, providing fine examples of processes and products characteristic of Hawaiian volcanism: lava fountains, lava-lake activity, lava streams, lava entry into ocean, and formation of new land. Lava fountains from the Kilauea Iki vent reached 1,900 ft, the highest observed for a Hawaiian eruption!

The prime feature of this program is the showing of the 27-minute movie “Eruption of Kilauea 1959-1960,” which was produced in 1962 jointly by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service. This classic film—beautifully restored and recently digitized—arguably contains some of the best, and visually stunning, movie footage ever shot of Hawaiian eruptive activity. Before the showing, Bob Tilling will make some introductory remarks to provide context for the film, after which he will comment on some important aspects of the eruption not highlighted in the movie. Studies by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory of the 1959-1960 eruption were instrumental in developing the first model of how Hawaiian volcanoes work based on volcano-monitoring data, tracking the dynamic interactions between Kilauea’s summit magma reservoir and its rift zones. An added bonus of the eruption was the formation of the 120 m (400 ft)-deep Kilauea Iki lava lake, which provided a surface body of molten basaltic magma accessible for detailed investigations (including drilling) of cooling/crystallization processes.  Video