Definitions

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Glass threads or fibers formed by the wind from bits blown from frothy lava or from the tips of lava jets or from bits of liquid lava thrown into the air. It often collects in thick masses resembling tow.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The name given in the Hawaiian Islands to lava which, while fused, has been blown by the wind into long delicate fibers or threads.

Etymologies

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  • Cinders fell from the sky on the 14th. They were, Jón (Steingrímsson) wrote, 'blue-black and shiny, as long and thick around as a seal's hair'. This was the first description of what volcanologists today refer to as Pele's hair—thin strands of volcanic glass formed by molten particles ejected in a lava fountain and stretched into fibres as they are carried through the air. Just half a millimetre across, they may be as long as two metres. The unusual fallout covered the ground across the region, and the winds worked some of the hairs into long hollow coils.
    Alexandra Witze & Jeff Kanipe, Island on Fire: The Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano That Changed the World (New York: Island Books, 2015), ch. 1, Kindle loc 357

    February 10, 2019