Incredible Islands – Hawaii

Hawaii, the Big Island not the state, is by far the biggest island in the Hawaiian chain, and it is also the youngest.  Not only is it the biggest Hawaiian island, but it is still growing.

Measured at its widest point the island is 93 miles (150 km) across and has a land area of 4,028 square miles (10,430 km2)[2] comprising 62% of the total land area of the Hawaiian Islands. Not only that, but whilst the dormant volcano Mauna Kea is the tallest point on both the island and in the state, at 4,205 m (13,796 ft) above sea level, when measured from the sea floor the mountain’s actual height is over 10,000 m (33,000 ft) tall  making it significantly higher than Mt Everest.

Its rise from the sea floor was quite rapid, as the island is only about one million years old, which is very young in geological terms.  Its last eruption was about 5,000 years ago and the constant volcanic activity which caused the birth of Mauna Kea is thought to have ended several hundred thousand years ago, although other parts of the island are still extremely active.

Its great height, dry climate at its peak, and stable airflow means that the summit of Mauna Kea is one of the best places in the world to observe the heavens, and now the peak is dotted with 13 telescopes of all types to both observe and measure the sky and the stars.

Mauna Kea is just one of five shield volcanoes which comprise the island of Hawaii. The volcano Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world as it has a constant outpouring of lava. The Pu’u O’o cone has been continuously erupting since 1983 and it is not unusual for houses and roads to become engulfed in flowing lava.

Kilauea is also relatively young with lava that is less than 1,000 years old covering more than 90% of Kilauea.  This volcano gets millions of visitors each year, making it the world’s most visited volcano.

Mauna Loa is another of the shield volcanoes on Hawaii, and although it’s summit is just 120 feet (37 m) lower than its neighbour Mauna Kea, it’s mass is much greater, with a volume estimated at approximately 18,000 cubic miles (75,000 km³), making it not only the world’s largest volcano but also the world’s most massive mountain.     

Although Mauna Loa does erupt very occasionally, the eruptions are not very explosive, and it is coming towards the end of its active life.  The town of Hilo is located on the slopes of Mauna Loa and the city is partly built from its lava flows.

Of the two other shield volcanoes on Hawaii Kohala is extinct and Hualalai is somewhat dormant.

The Big Island is a very attractive island to visit, with the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park being the most popular place to visit.  There are the historic towns of Hilo and Kailua Village, in the heart of Kona, Akaka Falls State Park, Waimea and Ka Lae the most southerly point in the United States.

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