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The Hawaiian language has many words for the different types of lava, but two have become part of the language of volcanic eruptions. The first, 'a'a, is a rough, crumbly lava that rolls across the land in crusted masses. The second, pāhoehoe, is very different , smooth, often ropey, flows of rock.

Walking to the lava flow viewing areas near Kilauea and to the Kalapana black sand beaches you walk across fields of ropey, slowly crumbling pāhoehoe. Everything has melted, flowing into uneven lumps and whorls of dense black rock. The twists and turns cable their way across the slowly undulating landscape, disappearing in cracks or in the broken roofs of lava tubes. Close up the pāhoehoe shines, an iridescent silver black. There's glass in here, the molten silicates of the basalt crystallising out as the rock slowly cools.

Soon it too will be sand.


Kalapana, Hawaii
June 2009