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.
The 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.
Don'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.
Obey posted signs; these provide safety information. This sign describes the plume that forms as lava enters the sea.
Volcanic gases are highly dangerous. Here, scientists take a break to adjust their gas masks as a wind shift diverts the plume.
The 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!
Be especially careful near the edge of the sea cliff, where wave erosion creates massive cracks. Pieces of land can fall into the sea unexpectedly.
New lava flows mask old cliffs. It's difficult to distinguish old safe land from new dangerous bench; hike with an expert.
To safely sample lava, this technician is wearing welder's gloves and crouching on cold lava.
When viewing molten lava, make sure you are a safe distance away. Ask rangers from Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park for advice.
It's important to stay outside of roped-off areas in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. There is no view of lava worth dying for.
This scientist taking a lava sample is wearing proper field gear: Long cotton pants, long-sleeved shirt, boots, and gloves.
Because the landscape is continually changing, there are few trails on the coastal plain. Hikers need to stay together as a group.