Volcano Bombing – Why the Historic “Solution” to Hawaii’s Volcanic Explosions Might Not Be the Answer to Kilauea

Volcano Bombing – Why the Historic “Solution” to Hawaii’s Volcanic Explosions Might Not Be the Answer to Kilauea

A 30-second captures the glowing lava lake in the caldera of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano as it bounces light off of the haze drifting by in the sky.

Officials seek a solution to stop Kilauea’s devastation before “the big one” could make the problem much, much worse.


Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is not done.

Unlike more infamous eruptions that suddenly spew smoke, ash and lava into the sky from the mouth of the volcano, Kilauea has been a slow build-up to a potentially violent end.

Weeks after the initial explosion, Hawaiians and officials are still awaiting “the big one” – an enormous steam explosion that could shoot 10-ton molten rocks and more ash into the sky. This massive eruption could turn an already exacerbated situation deadly for those living on the island.

Over the past four weeks, the volcano created fissures (cracks) in the earth where lava oozes out the earth’s surface, draining the lava lake from Kilauea’s summit. In the absence of lava at the volcano’s center, mixing magma and ground water could trigger the massive explosions scientists fear are coming.

Molten lava flowing into the Pacific Ocean on Big Island of Hawaii


So, what are officials to do? One option: volcano bombs.

Before he became famous for his leadership in WWII, George S. Patton orchestrated the world’s first aerial bombing of a volcano.

In 1935, a lava river from the erupting Mauna Loa was advancing toward the town of Hilo, Hawaii. The only way volcanologist Thomas Jaggar knew to save the town was to stop the lava flow. He reached out to then lieutenant colonel George S. Patton to bomb the lava flow source.

Two days after Christmas, 10 Army bombers in cloth-winged biplanes dropped over 12,000 lbs. of demolition bombs on Mauna Loa. One week later, the lava stopped its trek toward Hilo.

But, all scary stories are incomplete without a twist ending.

Many locals were upset about the bombings, calling it an affront to Pele, the volcano goddess of Hawaii. They warned Pele would take her revenge, and less than one month later, she did. Two planes collided over the Oahu island, killing 6 of the 10 men who participated in the bombing.

In recent years, scientists are skeptical that the bombs were effective in stopping the lava. Some wonder if the pilots had just been extremely lucky that their bomb hit the right part of Mauna Loa. Overall, scientists do not recommend the same method be used to prevent “the big one” Kilauea could unleash.

Right now, the reality of Kilauea is ominous.

History aside, the continuing eruption of Kilauea is a life-threatening problem for residents on Hawaii’s Big Island. Already, the destruction from the fissures, volcanic smog and ash have displaced many islanders and destroyed dozens of homes. And unfortunately, that’s the best thing they can do it to distance themselves as far as possible from the volcano.


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Adam Beck

Director of Marketing at CADENAS PARTsolutions | A Marketing graduate from the Miami University, Farmer School of Business in Oxford Ohio, Adam has years of experience in marketing and design for a variety of industries.