Mauna Loa is the second youngest and second-most active volcano on the Big Island. It is also the largest volcano on the face of the earth. Extending to the northwest near Waikoloa, to the entire southwest part of the island and to the east near Hilo, Mauna Loa remains an extremely dangerous volcano which can erupt in many different directions.
Historically, Mauna Loa has erupted at least once in every decade of recorded Hawaiian history. It has, however, since 1949 slowed it's pace with eruptions in 1950, 1975 and 1984. Scientists and residents of the Big Island constantly monitor Mauna Loa in anticipation of its next eruption.
Once believed to be a offshoot of its large neighbor, Mauna Loa, scientists now have concluded that Kilauea is actually a separate volcano with its own magma-plumbing system, extending to the surface from more than 60 km deep in the earth.
Kilauea Volcano, on the south-east side of the Big Island, is one of the most active on earth. Its current eruption (known as the Puʻu ʻOʻo - Kupaianaha eruption) started in Jan. 1983 and continues to this day. During this eruption over 500 acres have been added to the Big Island's shoreline.
In the course of the eruption, lava flows have destroyed a famous 700 year-old Hawaiian temple, (Wahaʻula heiau), overrun many houses including a housing subdivision known as Royal Gardens, permanently blocked several highways, and even destroyed the old National Park Visitor Center.
There are no indications that the current eruption will come to an end anytime soon.
Visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park have a unique opportunity to see the living earth in action. For those who are unable to visit the park or who cannot due to health reasons (volcanic gases can be dangerous to those with pulmonary disorders such as asthma), we have gathered some of the best photos taken of the current eruption by the scientists of the U.S. Department of Interior - U.S. Geological Survey.
We also highly recommend a series of videos called VolcanoScapes produced by Tropical Visions Video, Inc.
NEXT PAGE - Kilauea Volcano Photo Gallery
Hawaii Center for Volcanology - University of Hawaii School of Earth Science and Technology
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - National Park Service
Hawaii Volcano Observatory - United States Geological Survey