Thursday, February 23, 2012

[Geology2] 'Pele's Braids' Seen in Lava on Hawaiian Volcano

'Pele's Braids' Seen in Lava on Hawaiian Volcano

'Pele's braids' seen in the lava on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano.
'Pele's braids' seen in the lava on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano.
Credit: Lavaloverbo/YouTube

A fresh flow of lava oozed from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano yesterday (Feb. 23), showing a unique swirling pattern in the cooling lava called "Pele's braids."

Pele is the god of fire in Hawaiian mythology. He lives inside Kilauea, and when he gets angry, the volcano roars, according legend. A band of ancient warriors were en route to battle near the summit of Kilauea more than 200 years ago when Pele got angry. Very angry.

Searing rocks exploded from Kilauea's summit crater and a thick current of lava surged toward the warriors, propelled by hurricane-force winds.  More than 400 people died, according to historical estimates, in the deadliest volcanic eruption in what is now the United States.

These kinds of eruptions are few and far between on Kilauea. Its name means "spewing" or "much spreading" in Hawaiian and the volcano has been continually oozing out lava since Jan. 3, 1983. People often walk near these sluggish rivers of lava that flow down the mountain's slopes and into the ocean. These "gentle eruptions" are rarely a threat unless people are doing something foolish, like treading too close to the hot lava. Occasionally though, the lava will slowly consume houses in its path.

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