Hakai Magazine

Coastal science and societies

One Great Shot: The Power of Pele

Lava spills into the sea and a new coastline is born in Hawai‘i.

Authored by

by James Petruzzi

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lava flowing into ocean

A lava ocean entry is unlike any scene on Earth. Rarely do we encounter so much beauty and violence as when fire meets water in the explosive process of creating new land. When I had the opportunity to visit and photograph the Kamokuna ocean entry on the Island of Hawai‘i in 2016, I wanted to convey that beauty and violence.

This shot was taken immediately after a detonation of steam and rubble, as a breaking wave briefly slowed the 1,149 °C curtain of molten rock flowing into the sea. Vapor and dripping water frame the image, reflecting the brilliant glow of the lava pouring in a torrent over and around the slowly extending basalt shoreline.

With the eruption that produced this flow having ceased (for the moment!), the waves now crash on a young black sand beach. I will forever be grateful for the chance to witness the power of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, and the birth of a new coastline.