Pele’s dance across lower Puna: Museum hosting presentation on Kilauea’s 1955 East Rift Zone eruption

Swipe left for more photos

ABOVE: Bulldozers attempted to deflect the flow of lava by building a barrier above Iwasaki camp March 21, 1955. LEFT: A spatter cone and lava on Kalapana Road in Pahoa on March 14, 1955. GORDON A. MACDONALD/Courtesy of HVO
BOB MONAHAN/Courtesy of Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory On March 14, 1955, a spatter cone, left, opened up 50 feet from the home of a Puna farmer, setting the structure on fire.
GORDON A. MCDONALD/Courtesy of HVO Bulldozers attempted to deflect the flow of lava by building a barrier above Iwasaki camp on March 21, 1955.

In 1955, Kilauea Volcano erupted in the lower Puna District of Hawaii Island for a heart-stopping 88 days. The outbreak began Feb. 28 and was the first eruption in an inhabited area on Kilauea since 1840.

More than 24 separate volcanic vents opened up and down the volcano’s East Rift Zone, with lava flows covering some 3,900 acres of land. Coastal communities from Kalapana to Kapoho were evacuated, and sections of every public road to the coastline were buried by lava before the eruption ended abruptly May 26.

The Lyman Museum kicks off Volcano Awareness Month with a special presentation by USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Frank Trusdell and HVO photo archive volunteer Ben Gaddis, who use maps, photos and film to describe this historic event and its impact on lower Puna communities.

The public can attend the presentation on two occasions: from 7-8:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 8, and 3-4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9.

The program is part of Lyman Museum’s Saigo Public Program lecture series. Admission is free to museum members, $3 for nonmembers.

The nationally accredited and Smithsonian-affiliated Lyman Museum showcases the natural and cultural history of Hawaii. Located in Hilo at 276 Haili St., the museum is open 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

For more information, call 935-5021 or visit