Safety Near Lava

Safety for CSAV Students & Scientists

You always have to be careful when you're hiking on the Big Island. But when you're hiking near active lava in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, you have to be even more careful. You need to wear special protective gear, you need to carry and drink enough water to stay hydrated, you need to obey government warning signs, and you need to follow a leader who is responsible and familiar with the area.

scientists view lava safelyThe best way to view molten lava is from a safe distance. Stand on cold solid rock that is upwind of the lava flow. Don't wander; instead, stay with your group at all times.

sign advises hikers. Photo by Fabio AlvoradoDon't forget to bring lots of water, a flashlight and batteries. You dehydrate quickly in the field; drink water frequently, even before you become thirsty.

safety sign. Photo by Matt HuberObey posted signs; these provide safety information. This sign describes the plume that forms as lava enters the sea.

fume near Puu Oo crater. Photo by Milena BerrocalVolcanic gases are highly dangerous. Here, scientists take a break to adjust their gas masks as a wind shift diverts the plume.

view of bench. Photo by Milena BerrocalThe cliff to the left is old land. The flat bench below it is new land, unsupported at depth, ready to break off and collapse into the sea. Stay off!

cracks in sea cliff. Photo by Edu TaipeBe especially careful near the edge of the sea cliff, where wave erosion creates massive cracks. Pieces of land can fall into the sea unexpectedly.

cliff draped with lava. Photo by Edu TaipeNew lava flows mask old cliffs. It's difficult to distinguish old safe land from new dangerous bench; hike with an expert.

technician samples lava. Photo by Ulyana HorodyskijTo safely sample lava, this technician is wearing welder's gloves and crouching on cold lava.

scientists in orange vests. Photo by Juan Carlos Gavilanes Ruiz, Universidad de ColimaWhen viewing molten lava, make sure you are a safe distance away. Ask rangers from Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park for advice.

safety sign. Photo by Ulyana HorodyskijIt's important to stay outside of roped-off areas in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. There is no view of lava worth dying for.

scientist samples lava. Photo by Edu TaipeThis scientist taking a lava sample is wearing proper field gear: Long cotton pants, long-sleeved shirt, boots, and gloves.

hikers without a trail. Photo by Trystan Glynn-MorrisBecause the landscape is continually changing, there are few trails on the coastal plain. Hikers need to stay together as a group.