Mauna Loa 1880-81 eruption: The lava flow that came to Hilo

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park


Within the last 160 years, five eruptions sent lava flows to within 10 miles (16 km) of Hilo Bay. The 1880-1881 Mauna Loa eruption came the closest, with a flow that posed an immediate threat to Hilo and its beautiful bay. During the eruption, Princess Regent Lili‘uokalani and Princess Ruth Ke‘elikōlani led the efforts to save Hilo town. As residents offered both Christian prayers and appeals to Pele, preparations were also made to dig ditches, construct rock barriers, and blast dynamite in attempts to divert the advancing lava streams. After more than nine months, the lava flow stopped, but less than a mile from the bay front. USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist Jim Kauahikaua and HVO volunteer Ben Gaddis will present the story of this Mauna Loa eruption using maps, art, and photographs of the lava flow that came to Hilo.