Most children have played some variant of the hot lava game at some point, where you hop from object-to-object to avoid touching the imaginary lava on the floor. But what actually happens if you step in real lava?
Alex Rivest, a neuroscientist visiting Kilauea, an active volcano in Hawaii, decided to test it out with his tour guide. The tour guide approached the slow-moving molten rock, which is usually 1,292 to 2,192 °F, and pressed his boot into it. The shoe made a small impression, but sparked a flame that bounced of its surface.
“While this may not be surprising, it is liquid rock, I think that many people think of lava as more of a hot-watery-like substance,” Rivest told Daily Mail. “You would never fall into a lava lake the way you would a swimming pool, the molten rock is much more dense, so you would simply land on it, sink a little, and be burned.”
Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world; it’s between 300,000 and 600,000 years old and has been continuously erupting since 1983.
“At certain locations, and only under proper guidance and safety procedures, you can visit some of the lava fronts. It is truly one of the most amazing things to witness,” Rivest said.
When lava cools, it develops a dark, thin layer of solid matter that can be stood on for a very short amount of time. This is partially because lava, which is a liquid, is extremely viscous.