Note: This paper is dedicated to Aaron and Elizabeth Waters on the occasion of Dr. Waters' retirement.
Lava from the Mauna Ulu eruption on Kilauea Volcano entered the sea on the south coast of the Island of Hawaii three times from 1969 to 1971. Two of these flows were investigated underwater by divers, one while lava was actively flowing.
The June 1969 flow entered the sea as a narrow flow of aa. Below sea level, the flow maintained continuity and flowed at least several hundred meters to a depth beyond 70 m. Several cylindrical flow lobes about 1 m in diameter and about 10 to 15 m long emerged from the side of the aa flow at a depth of about 25m.
Underwater investigations, combined with subaerial observations, revealed that the March–May 1971 flow produced a distinct lava delta composed of subaerial pahoehoe lava resting on a submarine sequence of steeply dipping foreset-bedded volcanic sand and rubble that includes conformably dipping cylindrical lava tongues. Most of the pahoehoe streams pouring over the sea cliff are quenched and shattered to glassy sand and rubble that in turn is further fragmented by vigorous wave action and avalanching. In some places, however, larger pahoehoe flows maintain coherence across the cliff and through the surf zone to feed submarine lava tongues. Underwater, these active lava tongues emitted a roaring noise as lava flowed inside their outer black glassy walls. Periodically, cracks exposed the brightly incandescent lava within, and pillow-like buds and toes grew from the top and sides of the lava tongue. Only a small amount of steam was generated underwater. Water temperature close to the active tongues was elevated only 2.5°C.