Volcano Watch: 1790 was a bad year at Kilauea

  • A man measuring 6 feet, 4 inches tall lies on a ballistic block that was thrown half a mile from the floor of Kilauea caldera onto the northwest flank of the volcano probably during the 1790 eruption. (USGS photo taken by D. Swanson/Special to West Hawaii Today)

The deaths apparently occurred along a trail crossing the northwest flank of Kilauea near Namakanipaio, when a ground-hugging surge of hot steam and rocks swept across the ground at high speed. Wet volcanic ash fell just before the lethal surge, and several hundred people left footprints in the ash beyond the limit of the surge.