Kawika Singson says of this photo, "That's real lava, real flames, and it was really hot! I could stand the heat only for a few seconds."
He adds, "As an avid photographer, I will go to the center of the earth to get the best shot!" Um, careful with those figures of speech...as I understand it, one of the dangers of walking on hot lava is falling through the crust, like falling through ice.
Kawika is trying to raise money for a new camera on gofundme. All right, but you have to promise not to set it on fire.
(Thanks to Gavin McLelland)
P.S. I have to say I don't trust photographs any more. This looks real, and he says it's real, but I still wouldn't be truly shocked if it's not real.
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Kevin Purcell: "Note the photo is taken on pahoehoe flow. About 10 minutes after the lava has flowed, the surface is hard enough to support a human's weight. But even just-cooled flows aren't hot enough to radiatively ignite paint.
Now here is the rule for determining how hot lava is. We have used pyrometers (devices that can measure the temperature of whatever it is pointed out) many times to cross fields, until we learned how to make the same judgment without the pyrometers. For the most part, the hottest temperature you can cross safely (assuming proper boots and denim long pants) is about 800°F to 850°F. Above that temperature your body will instantly tell you that it is too hot (this is one reason lava is fairly safe—your body will keep you away from anything too hot). In general, 850°F is probably the highest I have ever crossed, and when I got to the other side I said wow, that was too hot. Most of the crossings we make are in the 600 to 700°F range. At 600°F your boots will get very hot, and may smell a bit, but will not smoke. Above 700°F your boots will smoke when they hit the lava and will often leave a slight outline of the sole where you step (this is caused by water vapor between your boot and the lava). Anything hotter and your feet simply won't let you go.
—From Active Lava Cautions and Warnings at
"Note the comment about boots smoking (not bursting into flame) at a temperature that was at the top end of managable.
"Geologists do sample pahoehoe without special clothing (you need reflective gear for a'a) with a hammer at arms length, though a balaclava and glove are good. It's hot but nothing bursts into flame.
"In the photo the man is wearing sneakers, not boots (a very poor choice for anyone experienced on the lava fields), no gloves (better to burn or rip your gloves than your hand if you have to put your hand down to stop a fall), and camo pants rather than, say, denim jeans (which are thicker and tougher).
"So where is the contact sheet for this shoot? The 'after the event' shots? The close-ups of the sneakers? The close-ups of the tripod?"
Alex S: "So he doused his tripod and shoes in lighter fluid to get the shot. Who hasn't?"
Ctein: "Falling through the pahoehoe crust into hot lava in Hawaii is not one of the dangers you need to be concerned about. In fact, once the crust has cooled enough that you can walk on it without special protective gear, it's much more dangerous walking on a cold, empty lava crust.
"When the tube is still filled with lava (and that's what you're walking on, the outer shell of a lava tube) the molten rock supports the tube. Once the tube is empty, it is like walking on unsupported ice of uncertain thickness. You want to be very careful where you step, because if you break through that glassy rock, you can lacerate yoursel badly.
"I suppose it is conceivable that in the very early stages of a hot lava tube, the crust might still be thin enough that there would be risk walking on it. But you could never do that without special garb. Remember that the underlying lava glows bright cherry red in direct sunlight—it's three times hotter in absolute temperature than your kitchen oven at its hottest. When the crust is really thin, it's way, way too hot to walk on. Even a several-day-old 'mature' crust over a lava-filled tube can be at 120+°F. You don't wear crêpe-soled shoes on active lava fields, because if you stand in one place for a few minutes the soles will melt!
"Furthermore, the whole field is like that; it's one giant radiant heater! That's what those protective metallized suits are all about. And it's not just the ground that's hot, it's also the air you're walking through. The biggest dangers in traversing an active lava field in Hawaii, along with fumes and getting cut off by a flow that sneaks behind you and blocks your exit path, are hyperthermia and dehydration, even if it's an overcast and cool day off of the field."
Tim Bray: "I've been there and it's hard to believe a human could tolerate that."
Mike replies: That's a great piece, Tim, thanks very much for the link. You really make the reader feel like they were there with you.