Last year, you probably followed dramatic news reports about the eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano.
The natural disaster, which combined earthquakes, dangerous smog, and burning hot magma flows, ruined homes and businesses in its path.
But nature has a way of balancing out destruction with creation, and that’s just what happened on the state’s biggest island, also known as Hawaii.
Kilauea’s eruption had an unexpected but welcome side effect along a shoreline in Pohoiki, or Isaac Hale Beach Park. Silt from the volcano's magma has formed enough black sand to add a new beach to the coast, with a striking dark color.
Black sand beaches are unusual but not unheard of, and can form anywhere where there’s plenty of dark, volcanic rock. There are dark beaches all over the world, but Hawaii is especially rich, with multiple black sand beaches on the Big Island and two on Maui.
Ross Birch, the executive director of Hawaii’s Visitors Bureau, says the new Pohoiki Beach is the "silver lining" of the disastrous eruption.
"We hope our community and visitors can make new memories with loved ones at this special place, and always remember the island of Hawaii's unique ability to be ever-evolving," he told CNN.
But the new beach poses tricky questions for the park. Its boat launch, the only one in the entire district, is unusable now that it’s blocked by sand. Fishermen and tour boat operators hope to dredge a path back to the ocean soon.
Volcanic beaches can also erode quickly, so the sand could be all gone again in just a few years.
For now, locals are making the most of their new beach. While strong currents near the coast mean it’s not suited for swimming, people are still flocking to the site to admire its unusual look and snap photos.
Along with the beach, four thermal ponds were created nearby as part of the eruption. Bathers aren’t allowed in yet, because the pools need to be disinfected, but someday they could add to the park’s natural charms
Kilauea also grabbed headlines when a small island formed as lava flowed into the sea last year. Months later, the "island" off the Kapoho coast is now a full-fledged peninsula connected to the mainland.
While Kilauea has calmed down, for now, it’s still an active volcano, and could reshape Hawaii again in coming years.
[H/T: Hawaii Magazine]