The Stunning Photographs From The 70's Kilauea Volcano Eruption

May 15, 2018 by Lisa Scarpa
11 MIN

Kilauea, Hawaii

There is quite the news coming out of Hawaii at the moment, mostly coming from the Pu’u O’o eruption which is actually the longest-duration eruption ever recorded on Kilauea! The Pu’u O’o has been active for 35 years now, starting in January of 1983!  Houses, cars, and streets have become engulfed in the cooling lava flow all the meanwhile the ground trembles with seismic activity. As thick plumes of gas steam out of cracks, residents have been told to flee and evacuate with as many belongings as possible to shelters.

volcano eruption video

May 2018 

Volcano Eruption

In the wake of these eruptions, we are reminded of the explosive eruptions of the Mauna Ulu that lasted from May 1969 to July 1974. Mauna Ulu was a spectacular sight, with some of the most breathtaking lava fountains spewing lava into the air and cascading lava falls, which eventually added over 230 acres of land to Hawaii’s Big Island.

When nature shows off what it's capable of in such a spectacular way, although destroying everything in its way, this brings out the interest of beauty seekers, aka photographers. During Mauna Ulu's magnificent 5 year eruption, photographers from all over the world set out to witness this spectacle! Here are some of the most stunning photos of the historical eruption almost 50 years ago! 

During the 1969 to 1974 Mauna Ulu eruption, a lava fall cascades into Alae Crater. Lava falls higher than Niagara Falls began to fill Alae Crater on August 5, 1969, following a catastrophic draining on August 4. Renewed fountaining at Mauna Ulu sent lava into Alae, starting to refill the crater. The total height of the lava falls was more than 330 feet, and the width more than 1,000 feet.


A man photographs a slowly advancing mass of lava near Mauna Ulu Crater, on Kilauea's East Rift, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on January 25, 1974.


lava fountain

A dome-shaped lava fountain that formed between October 10 and 13, 1969. Photo taken on October 11. This dome fountain is about 65 feet high.


kilauea volcano eruption

Lava cascades into Aloi Crater with geologists standing in the foreground on December 30, 1969. The Mauna Ulu fountain is visible in the distance.


Alae Crater

A giant crack near a slump at the edge of Alae Crater on Chain of Craters Road on June 29, 1969.


Fountain of lava venting through water

Fountains arch from vents on the east flank of Mauna Ulu on October 15, 1970.


Lava cascades over a cliff at Alae Crater in Hawaii on February 22, 1969. Fountains of lava tower behind the cliffs.


A skylight in a lava tube carrying lava from Alae Crater onto Kilauea's south flank, on October 21, 1970. For much of 1970 and into 1971, lava flowed through a tube from Mauna Ulu into a complex lava lake in Alae Crater. The lake built natural levees, which allowed the lake level to rise much higher than the old crater rim. Lava tubes developed in the levees as exits for lava entering the lake. This photo shows one such exit tube.


An erupting lava fountain in February of 1970.


Trees shallowed by lava

A coconut grove near Kahue Point, photographed after being surrounded by lava on September 21, 1970.


Lava beehive

Jeff Judd stands beside beehive spatter chimneys in Aloi Crater. These spires developed over time from a buildup of lava spatters on the surface of the lava fill in the crater.


Lava fall into the Aloi Crater

Lava from the Mauna Ulu vent produces falls into Aloi Crater.


volcano eruption

Lava splashes up from a dome fountain near Aloi Crater on January 29, 1971.

Smaller arching fountains spew lava onto rock at Mauna Ulu.


Mauna Ulu erupts

Lava flowing from the summit crater of Mauna Ulu eastward into a pool at the west end of the trench on February 7, 1972. This was only about four days after eruptive activity resumed at Mauna Ulu after temporarily ending on October 15, 1971.


A hornito forming in Aloi Crater, approximately five feet wide and three feet high, on May 20, 1970.


Splatter of lava from the explosion

Spatter from an explosion of Kilauea's lava as it entered the ocean at the shore on April 12, 1971.


Massive lava fountains

Lava fountains at Mauna Ulu, viewed from Pu' Huluhulu, on October 20, 1969.


Man watches as Lava flows

Lava flows at the base of Holei Pali on February 28, 1971.


Artesian-fountain venting

Artesian-fountain venting near the west vent cone flows moving south, on May 28, 1970.

A cascade of lava

The Aloi cascade, produced by lava from the Mauna Ulu vent.


A fountain feeding into two rivers of lava

A view from Pu‘u Huluhulu of fountaining feeding two rivers of lava, causing renewed shield growth on January 30, 1974. Low fountains and repeated overflows at the Mauna Ulu crater built the shield higher. Lava flows were mostly brief and short, thereby increasing the relief between the top of the shield and its base.


1,000 foot lava fountain in Mauna Ulu

A 1,000-foot lava fountain in the Mauna Ulu vent area, on December 30, 1969. Lava flows, fed by the fountain, cascaded into Alo'i Crater, at left. 2,000 feet from the vent. A couple of hours after the photo was taken, the wind shifted, and the black Ford station wagon, still parked in the same place, was pelted with falling pumice and needed, though never received, a new paint job.


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