Hawaii’s audacious operation to bomb erupting volcano with TNT to halt lava

Hawaii tried a maddening operation to stop deadly lava flows from the world's largest volcano – blasting it with TNT.

Mauna Loa, the world's largest active volcano which is erupting once again, saw a cascade of explosives dropped onto it in an audacious operation to halt the flow of lava.

Earlier in history, a day of prayer declared in 1881 did little to quell the surge of hot and deadly magma – so fifty years later, more radical action was taken.

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In an attempt to disrupt lava channels, founder of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Thomas A. Jagger asked U.S. Army Air Services to unleash carnage.

Lt. Col. George S. Patton, who later became famous as a general in Europe during World War II, directed planes to drop 20 600-pound demolition bombs on the volcano.

Each was stuffed with 355 pounds of TNT and a succession of 20 other black powder charge bombs, and were deployed by Patton on December 27, 1935.

Jagger's vision of throwing bombs down onto the flowing lava appeared to have worked, as by January 2, 1936, the lava had stopped flowing entirely.

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Jagger had hoped that the bombing run would "hasten the end of the flow", but experts from the time of Patton's success in quelling those volcanic troubles doubt the success rates.

Howard Stearns, a geological survey expert that was onboard the last bombing run, wrote in his autobiography in 1983 that he was "sure it was a coincidence".

Still, coincidence or not it appears that bombing the volcano may be more productive than the current plan, which is to build up a wall in the hopes that it will be strong enough to withstand lava.

Geologist Scott Rowland explained the stumped situation, adding: "Some people say, 'Build a wall' or 'Board up,' and other people say, 'No don't!'"

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