Just above is a photo I took once of flowing lava up close when one could walk right next to it. I had just thrown a lei in the deeper lava for Nona Beamer, a Hawaiian lady who wished to make an offering but was not able to make it there.
The lava pulses back and forth as it flows, as though it were breathing just as the hot pink plume above the lava lake does. It looks and moves like quick silver, and one can find oneself surrounded by it and cut off if one is not careful. A thin crust is on the surface, but inside it is molten, glowing and red. When the pa’hoe’hoe lava stops moving and it hardens, it becomes a porous black rock with a rainbow colored sheen that sparkles in the moonlight.
The lava in this picture is pa’hoe’hoe, which means “velvet” in Hawaiian, because it is so smooth and slippery. There are other types of lava, such as a’a , which consists of a super-heated rough wall of rock that can be as much as ten to fifteen feet high. Pa’hoe’hoe is a form of lava unique to the Big Island, the fastest moving in the world. Were it to flow from the active volcano on the other side of the island, Hualālai, it would destroy the village of Kona in 4 hours. It seems likely that there may be some activity here on the Big Island again, that lava may flow below us to the town of Pahoa.