Hawaii is falling apart, y’all.
Last September, the Honolulu City Council voted to remove the 3,922-step Haiku Stairs. The site was already closed to the public because it was private property and deemed too dangerous. But people were still trespassing on the property to climb the stairs because of the photo/selfie appeal. The budget for their removal was approved in June, 2022.
Meanwhile, in May of this year, Waipo Valley became off limits to visitors, again, due to safety reasons. It’s one of the steepest roads in the country, and the narrow, crumbling one-lane road was too dangerous for both vehicles and pedestrians.
And now? The Nāhuku lava tube (formerly known as Thurston Lava Tube) closed at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park earlier this month.
The National Park Service said in a news release on Tuesday, August 2 that data from a crack meter “revealed that a fracture near a large overhanging rock slab at the apex of the lava tube has narrowed by 2.47 mm since Saturday.”
The narrowing movement could indicate the crack is adjusting in response to other fractures widening in the lava tube, making the large overhead chunk of rock unstable and potentially dangerous. The slab measures about 2.16 x 3.23 meters (7.1 x 10.5 feet) and 20.3 cm (8 inches) thick. Further monitoring is required to determine if the lava tube can safely reopen.
On Sunday, National Park Service geomorphologist Dr. Eric Bilderback alerted park management that the crackmeter in the middle of Nāhuku had moved 1.96 mm Saturday night over the course of several hours, and had moved another 0.51 mm by Monday morning. Park managers closed the lava tube Sunday.
Bilderback said while the movement is slow and not accelerating, these movements of a large rock slab are unusual in the monitoring record. A return of movement similar to the previous record would need to occur before the lava tube would be considered safe to reopen. It is not clear how long that will take.
Prior to the fractural changes over the weekend, data from the monitors revealed little change to the cave’s structural integrity showing less than 1 mm of movement since November 2019.
Large rocks in Nāhuku were dislodged during the 2018 eruption and summit collapse of Kīlauea volcano. Two crackmeters were installed in the lava tube’s ceiling to monitor their movement.
The park closed the lava tube following the 2018 eruption and summit collapse of Kīlauea, but reopened it in February 2020. Then the pandemic struck and it was closed from March 2020 to March 2021. And now it’s closed again.
It’s currently unknown when or if the lava tube will reopen.
Nāhuku was the most easily accessible of the lava tubes on the Big Island and is one of the main attractions of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
There are 3 other lava tubes on the Big Island that are easy to reach:
- Kaumana Caves (free entrance) and it’s awesome!
There’s one other lava tube that used to offer public entry, HueHue, but its entrance has been closed off since before the pandemic.
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