Image: Lava eruption
Coastline at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park falls into the ocean Monday, exposing the cliffside and a stream of lava shooting from the cliff face. The glowing lava has since formed a ramp of new land.
updated 12/2/2005 8:02:30 PM ET 2005-12-03T01:02:30

About 44 acres (18 hectares) of coastline collapsed into the ocean this week, setting loose a glowing stream of lava that shot out from the newly exposed cliffside 45 feet (14 meters) above the water.

The plume, 6 feet (2 meters) in diameter, sent up a tower of steam as it hit the water and began forming a ramp of new land.

The collapse of solidified lava shelf and sea cliff Monday was the largest since Kilauea Volcano began its current eruption in 1983.

Jim Kauahikaua, scientist-in-charge of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said a collapse warning was issued in June because the shelf had become large and had formed cracks. Large collapses had happened in the area before.

Rumblings tipped scientists to Monday’s collapse, which took about 4½ hours. Even at that relatively slow pace, the effect was spectacular.

“The cliff just caved away like a glacier,” said park spokesman Jim Gale. “It just sheared off that old wall. There’s this gigantic steam plume and you see the red just falling down — an incredible fire hose display.”

The collapse sent out globs of lava and head-size boulders. Sheets of volcanic glass called limu o Pele, after the Hawaiian goddess of fire, and thin strands of volcanic glass known as Pele’s hair were found 1,800 feet (550 meters) inland.

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