BYU-Hawaii students and alumni hope tour boats can learn to keep safe distances from lava flow

Written by: 
Dani Castro

Future tour boats can learn to be wary of unexpected volcanic activity and respect Pele while she works on creating new land after a lava bomb from the Kīlauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii hit water nearby a tour boat on July 1, according to students and alumni. The incident left 23 tourists injured and one person in critical condition.

According to, Hawaiian culture teaches the creator of the Hawaiian Islands and the Goddess of fire is Pele. Tūtū Pele is responsible for lava flow and the creation of new land. For that reason, Tūtū Pele, Tūtū being a term of respect, is also known as ‘She who shapes the sacred land.’

Dylan-Sage Wilcox, a senior English major from the Big Island, shared Tūtū Pele can be better respected by giving her the space she needs to create more land. Wilcox said, “When Pele comes out from Kīlauea, we are the ones to move out of her way. She is a special guest. We live in cohabitation with her. Especially when she's making the Big Island bigger, the best thing we can do is stay out of her way. It's not only out of respect, it's the right thing to do.”

Commenting on the lava bomb accident, Wilcox said it must’ve been a scary experience. He said, “I know there's lots of boat tours that guide people close to the lava flow entering the ocean. The tour guides know the risks of being that close, but people should also know that Pele can be very unpredictable. I haven't heard of a chunk of lava actually hitting a boat carrying tourists. I know they try to keep them away from the sulfur as the lava hits the ocean.”

After hearing about the incident for the first time, Kaohimaunu Conradt, a senior from Hawaii studying business operation and supply chain management, thought this specific tour boat was not being careful, and commented that different tour boats could learn a lot from this situation. He said it’s important to know that when extremely hot substances collide with cold substances, the collision can cause an explosion. In those moments, the best place to be is away from it.

Conradt commented, “When extremely hot lava hits water, it explodes. They were a little too careless and the [boat] captain got too close to the lava. I feel bad for the 23 people who got hurt on the boat. Hopefully, they learn from this and realize when floating near extremely hot lava, anything could happen. It is lucky they are still alive and are now recovering from the accident.”

This photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources shows damage to the roof of a tour boat after an explosion sent lava flying through the roof off the Big Island of Hawaii Monday, July 16, 2018, injuring at least 23 people. The lava came from the Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting from a rural residential area since early May. (Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources via AP, file)

This photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources shows damage to the roof of a tour boat after an explosion sent lava flying through the roof. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

Nicole Lee Chip Sao, an alumna from the Big Island, said she had always known about the active volcanoes in the Big Island, but she couldn’t recall an incident where a lava bomb injured people.

She commented how tragic it was that people were injured by this event. “Hopefully, in the future, these kinds of things can be avoided by taking extra precautions because we don't know what to expect from this recent lava eruption. I think there is a unique beauty and it is even a rare opportunity to witness this kind of lava flow at a close distance. However, we should be cautious as to what can happen without completely understanding the risk involved.

Lee Chip Sao shared ever since the eruption on the Big Island on May 3, one of the lava openings, Fissure Eight, has been very strong and therefore very mysterious as to the things it can do.

She said, “We don't know... [what we] can expect from Fissure Eight. Tour boats should more aware of the danger that can come from being too close to the lava. And even though it is an attraction site, I think it's best to be safe than sorry. Even if boats are granted permission to go closer to the shoreline, they should exercise more caution, and keep their distance so that in the future, no one gets hurt.”

According to Wilcox, people are often too enveloped with the event that they forget the risks. “While watching Pele create more land is an awesome sight to behold, people should respect her boundaries by admiring the growth of Hawaii island   from a distance.

“It's unfortunate for those who were hurt, I hope they're healing well. Now, they have an experience they won't soon forget, and maybe their story will help others to know how important it is to be more cautious around lava flow.”

Lee Chip Sao shared her condolences, “I hope the victims as well as their families have a speedy recovery. I'm happy there weren't any deaths. I'm praying for those who were injured.”

For more information on Fissure Eight and its comparison to the other fissures on Kīlauea, you can visit

Date Published: 
Monday, August 6, 2018
Last Edited: 
Monday, August 6, 2018