A series of enormous waves have significantly damaged one of the world’s most famous sea arches.
As a result of the waves, a large portion of the sea arch — the 90-foot-tall Hōlei Sea Arch in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park — broke loose after a crack developed. Now that the arch is weakened, it’s anybody’s guess as to how long the arch will last, the national park explains.
“It is possible the arch could collapse into the ocean at any time without warning!” according to the park’s recent Facebook post. “Admire what could possibly be a last look at Hōlei Sea Arch from the safe viewing area away from the cliff edge, near the end of Chain of Craters Road.”
Visitors can’t walk out onto Hōlei Sea Arch — it’s been closed for years due to instability.
What Are Sea Arches?
Sea arches, such as Hōlei Sea Arch, are found along the southern coast of Hawaii.
When volcanic lava reached the sea, it hardened and formed sea cliffs. “The moment that new lava cooled and turned to rock, however, it began to erode,” according to the National Park Service. “Immediately, the pulverizing powers of wind and water began to pound and fracture the cliffs. The seas on the southern edge of Hawai’i are known for being rough and having a violent surf. Ever so slowly, these eroding waves break apart and wear away the rock, sculpting sea caves into the cliff.”
Over time, as the waves pound into the caves, the water naturally hits the back wall of the cave. The force of the water bouncing off the back of the cave then gradually begins to erode the cave’s headland, forming a sea arch.
Given even more time, the force of the waves will cause the sea arch to collapse, leaving a pile of rocks known as a sea stack.
Hōlei Sea Arch is believed to have been formed about 550 years ago.
The Recent Development
The damage to Hōlei Sea Arch was documented by photographer Janice Wei, who was taking pictures of the waves at the park.
On Sunday, July 17, a large piece of rock appeared ready to break loose from the lower part of the arch’s leg. By Monday, the large piece of rock had broken loose.
The missing piece of rock is estimated to weigh “at least a half ton,” said Ben Hayes, interpretation and education manager at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, according to USA Today.
How long can the sea arch last like this? No one knows.
“It could be here for another two centuries or two days,” Hayes said.
How To See Hōlei Sea Arch
The good news is you can still see Hōlei Sea Arch in person.
You’ll find it at the end of Chain of Craters road in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island (the Big Island). Visitors can hike the popular Puna Coast Trail to see the arch, as well as the Pu’u Loa Petrogylph Field, which features rock carvings.
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