In 1880-81, a lava flow from Mauna Loa came very close to entering Hilo Bay. In trying to reconstruct the timeline of this flow for a recent Volcano Awareness Month presentation, we tracked down many old place names mentioned in newspaper reports of the lava’s progress. One such name that came up repeatedly is Kalanakamaa gulch (“kahawai o Kalanakamaa”).
In the past 160 years, five volcanic eruptions have sent lava flows to within 10 miles of Hilo Bay. The flow from the 1880-81 Mauna Loa eruption came the closest, posing an immediate threat to Hilo and its beautiful bay.