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The golden pumice deposit (unit K1) represents one of the latest episodes of Hawaiian fountaining in the Keanakāko‘i Tephra and is the product of the first high fountaining eruption at Kīlauea summit in ~300 yr, since the caldera formed in ca. 1500 CE. We present a new physical characterization of the deposit based on over 200 field sites, all affected by severe erosion, alteration, and silicic encrusting. We detail the deposit geometry, stratigraphic and structural relationships, and componentry to constrain its volume and reconstruct the eruptive sequence. The deposit is then discussed and set against other young episodes of high fountaining at Kīlauea.

We interpret the golden pumice as the product of a days-long eruptive sequence with a source located inside a caldera much deeper than that of today. The eruption probably started along a NE-SW–oriented fissure and migrated toward a single vent in the southwestern part of the caldera, where at least two high Hawaiian-style fountains produced a tephra deposit of ~6 × 106 m3. Stratigraphic contacts reveal that erosion occurred not only between, but also during the fountaining episodes, suggesting heavy rainfall during deposition. Field observations during this study also led to the discovery of the first stratigraphic evidence that the eastern pumice postdates the golden pumice, which contributes to the new definition of the stratigraphy of the Keanakāko‘i Tephra presented in this volume.

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