Edward G Wingate, USGS topographical engineer, was mapping the summit of Mauna Loa in 1926, changing campsites as the work progressed. On April 10 his camp was along the 11,400-foot elevation, well into the desolate upland above the Kau District.
An earthquake wakened the campers about 0145; as they drifted back to sleep, a further series of quakes had them sitting up, talking, and wondering. About 0330 Wingate braved the cold and wind; with a blanket wrapped around him, he went outside and stood bathed in reddish light. (USGS)
“About 3 am April 10 (1926,) glowing lava spouted along the upper 3 miles of cones and pits of the Mauna Loa rift belt, immediately south of Mokuʻāweoweo, the summit crater. “The actual beginning shown at Kilauea by seismographic tremor was 1:36 am, followed by two pronounced earthquakes.” (Jaggar)
For three days the HVO party surveyed the sources of the eruption; then they descended and moved into Kona District, where roads, houses, and other property were threatened by the flows. Wingate and his crew stayed behind. Much of the area already mapped was under fresh lava, and there was a lot of remapping to do. (USGS)
“A crack only 1 to 3 feet wide opened southward from a point tangent to the ease edge of the bottom of the south pit of Mokuʻāweoweo, vomited out pumiceous silvery pāhoehoe froth lava, and extended itself S.30oW. past the next two pits and over the brow of the mountain down to an elevation of 12,400 feet.” (Jaggar)
“Fortunately the main gushing of this first phase ceased about 5 am the same forenoon, after flowing 5 hours. … (Then,) The vent crack was splitting itself open downhill. The source pāhoehoe changed itself by stirring into scoriaceous aa half a mile from the vents”.
“(T)he Honomalino flow to the west finally dominated, … This was also aa. … It crossed the belt road at 12:22 pm April 16, 3 miles above Hoʻopuloa village.” (Jaggar)
“In 1926, there was a brief summit eruption, followed by 14 days of eruption on the southwest rift zone. A flow from this rift zone passed through a South Kona forest, crossed the main road on April 16, and pooled behind the coastal village of Hoʻopuloa.”
Perhaps a hundred people were waiting around the Hoʻopuloa Church, on the uphill side of the road, and at the Kana‘ana house opposite, on the downhill side of the road. They had seen and heard the flow, 15-20 feet high and more than 500 feet wide, as it moved through the forest uphill.
When it neared the road, people who lived on the Kona side of the flow moved off to the north, and those who lived on the Ka‘u side moved to the south, so they could go home after the road was closed. (USGS)
Tom Jaggar scratched marks about a foot apart across the rutted, gravel road (the only road) between the Kona and Ka‘u Districts. A lava flow was approaching, and Jaggar wanted to measure the flow’s speed as it crossed the road.
Jaggar recorded that it reached the uphill, inland side of the road at 12:22 at an estimated speed of about 7 feet/minute; within two minutes the road was crossed. Jaggar and his assistant, HS Palmer, stayed on the Ka‘u side. (USGS)
“When it got close to the upland of Hoʻopuloa, the flow of lava separated into two, and one of the flows went straight for the village of Hoʻopuloa and the harbor, and the second flow went towards the village of Miloliʻi. The fiery lava engulfed the harbor and village of Hoʻopuloa, and now they are but a heap of pāhoehoe lava.”
“According to eyewitnesses of this engulfing lava, it was frightening seeing the lava coming down, and others say that it was truly awesome watching the flowing lava and its sweeping aside of all obstructions in its path.”
“The last word heard before the Hoku went to the press was that this Wondrous Woman of Halemaʻumaʻu returned to her Palace at Kilauea, and she is bringing to life her fires at the famed crater of Halemaʻumaʻu.”
“Perhaps her rage has been quenched as the skin of that woman has touched the sea, but the memory of the tragedy which befell the people of that section of Kona is heartbreaking.” (Hoku o Hawaii, April 20, 1926)
One enterprising youth used his small truck to haul water from the Hoʻopuloa tanks to Miloliʻi, the end of the road.
When the flow reached the sea, he and his truck were cut off; he later took his truck apart and transported it piece by piece by outrigger canoe to the road on the Kona side of Hoʻopuloa. (USGS)
“Between 0400 and 0900 HST on April 18, the flow buried the village, wharf and harbor and entered the ocean. As soon as lava began falling into the sea, steam shot up in jets. Hundreds of dead fish floated along the edge of the turbulent water that spread out from the contact area of hot rock and cold ocean.”
Hawaiians from Miloliʻi came in their canoes and gathered the dead fish for salting and preserving. Jaggar collected some dead, floating fish and noted that they were perfectly fresh and in no sense cooked. (USGS)
Destruction of the village was gradual and complete. … This was Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s first real experience with property destruction by a lava flow. (USGS)