On the evening of January 23rd, 1859, Mauna Loa erupted. The eruption would last for 300 days, producing a 32-mile long lava flow. It remains the most voluminous eruption in post-contact Hawaii history.
A handful of small earthquakes were reported in the months preceding the eruption, but nothing to signal something as large as what it ended up becoming. In fact, the summit eruption was so brief that most people didn’t even realize there was an eruption until the lava had traveled over 6000 feet down the mountain. Residents on Maui reported seeing the lava’s glow. The eruption had a significant impact on local communities. Lava filled fishponds and overtook an entire coastal village.
More than a century later, another eruption would rock Hawaii Island, this time from Kilauea. It started on January 12th, 1960 with over 1000 earthquakes recorded, the epicenter of which was just north of Kapoho Village. The next day the eruption occurred. Methane explosions and lava fountains over 300 feet in the air occurred throughout the entire day. More lava fountains erupted over the course of the following week, launching rocks nearly 1000 feet into the air.
On January 23rd, 1960, the small village of Koaʻe was destroyed, as well as homes in Kapoho. The eruption ended on February 19th.
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