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Correcting the historical record for Kīlauea Volcano's 1832, 1868, and 1877 summit eruptions

December 30, 2020

Three fissure eruptions are known to have occurred along the northeastern edge of Kīlauea's summit caldera in the 19th century—in the years 1832, 1868, and 1877. Modern portrayal of these eruptions on maps and in written sources indicates that the 1832 eruption was from a fissure on the side of the Poliokeawe scarp south of Byron Ledge, the 1868 eruption was from a fissure on the southern wall of Kīlauea Iki Crater and fed a lava flow that covered the bottom of that crater, and the eruption in 1877 occurred on the floor of Keanakākoʻi Crater, as well as from a fissure of uncertain location on the east wall of the caldera below Byron Ledge. New geologic mapping and a review of historical documents and maps contradict these views. We find, instead, that: (1) the 1832 eruption discharged from a fissure on Byron Ledge (not Poliokeawe scarp), from another fissure on the southwestern wall of Kīlauea Iki Crater, and from at least one fissure along the east side of Kīlauea caldera below Byron Ledge; (2) the 1868 lava erupted through the floor of Kīlauea Iki Crater, not from a fissure in its southwestern wall; and (3) the 1877 lava erupted from Kīlauea Iki Crater's mid-wall fissure (until now believed to have opened in 1868), from the fissure previously assigned an 1832 date on Poliokeawe escarpment, and from a precisely relocated vent on the northeastern wall of the caldera. Finally, no conclusive first-hand accounts of the late 19th century eruption in Keanakākoʻi Crater were identified, leaving in doubt the often-inferred 1877 date for this event. Possible alternative dates include 1868, 1879, and 1881.