U.S. warns against unauthorized Kilauea boat tours

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A lava flow at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island has been attracting spectators since the beginning of the year.
A lava flow at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island has been attracting spectators since the beginning of the year. Photo Credit: National Park Service
For weeks a vermilion red spout of lava flowed into the ocean from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Then, a cliff collapse cut off the fountain, but soon after the stream of lava reemerged and started pouring into the Pacific once again.


The lava flow, which many have come to call the "firehose," is coming from Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii Island.

The flow can be seen from an established safe viewing area at the national park, and charter boats have been taking tourists and other curious visitors to witness the phenomenon.

The U.S. Coast Guard warned that some boat operators, eager to take advantage of the fleeting natural spectacle, have been running boat tours without the proper permits.

"Safety is always our top priority," said Coast Guard Capt. David McClellan in a statement addressing the charters. "For boat operators, it is important to maintain situational awareness and not unnecessarily put yourself, your passengers or your boat in danger. For visitors, it's important they check that their hired boat operators are licensed ensuring they possess the experience and training required to get them to the viewing area and back safely."

It is especially important for boat operators to know what precautions to take, because the area where lava meets ocean is particularly hazardous. The steam produced contains hydrochloric acid and particles of glass, according to the National Park Service. The cliffside is also prone to collapse.  

It is uncommon for a lava flow to be this big and so publicly accessible. The flow first appeared in early January when a cliffside collapsed into the ocean, exposing the lava tube. 

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