Hawaiian Islands (Hawaiian: Mokupuni o Hawai‘i) are an
archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller
islets, and seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500
miles (2,400 kilometers) from the island of Hawaiʻi in the south to
northernmost Kure Atoll. Formerly the group was known to Europeans and
Americans as the "Sandwich Islands", a name chosen by
James Cook in
honor of the then
First Lord of the Admiralty
First Lord of the Admiralty John Montagu, 4th Earl
of Sandwich. The contemporary name is derived from the name of the
The Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893. The islands were
subsequently put under the control of a republic, which the United
States annexed in 1898. The
U.S. state of
Hawaii now occupies the
archipelago almost in its entirety (including the uninhabited
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands), with the sole exception of Midway
Island, which instead separately belongs to the
United States as one
of its unincorporated territories within the
United States Minor
Hawaiian Islands are the exposed peaks of a great undersea
mountain range known as the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain, formed
by volcanic activity over a hotspot in the Earth's mantle. The islands
are about 1,860 miles (3,000 km) from the nearest continent.
1 Islands and reefs
1.1 Main islands
1.2 Smaller islands, atolls, reefs
5 National Monument
7 See also
9 Further reading
Islands and reefs
Main article: History of Hawaii
James Cook visited the islands on January 18, 1778 and named
them the "Sandwich Islands" in honor of John Montagu, 4th Earl of
Sandwich, who was one of his sponsors as the First Lord of the
Admiralty. This name was in use until the 1840s, when the local
name "Hawaii" gradually began to take precedence.
Hawaiian Islands have a total land area of 6,423.4 square miles
(16,636.5 km2). Except for Midway, which is an unincorporated
territory of the United States, these islands and islets are
administered as Hawaii—the 50th state of the United States.
The eight main islands of
Hawaii (also called the Hawaiian Windward
Islands) are listed here. All except
Kahoolawe are inhabited.
(as of 2010)
The Big Island
1 4,028.0 sq mi (10,432.5 km2)
4 45.948/sq mi (17.7407/km2)
1 13,796 ft (4,205 m)
19°34′N 155°30′W / 19.567°N 155.500°W / 19.567;
The Valley Isle
2 727.2 sq mi (1,883.4 km2)
2 198.630/sq mi (76.692/km2)
2 10,023 ft (3,055 m)
20°48′N 156°20′W / 20.800°N 156.333°W / 20.800;
The Gathering Place
3 596.7 sq mi (1,545.4 km2)
1 1,597.46/sq mi (616.78/km2)
5 4,003 ft (1,220 m)
21°28′N 157°59′W / 21.467°N 157.983°W / 21.467;
The Garden Isle
4 552.3 sq mi (1,430.5 km2)
3 121.168/sq mi (46.783/km2)
3 5,243 ft (1,598 m)
22°05′N 159°30′W / 22.083°N 159.500°W / 22.083;
The Friendly Isle
5 260.0 sq mi (673.4 km2)
5 28.250/sq mi (10.9074/km2)
4 4,961 ft (1,512 m)
21°08′N 157°02′W / 21.133°N 157.033°W / 21.133;
The Pineapple Isle
6 140.5 sq mi (363.9 km2)
6 22.313/sq mi (8.615/km2)
6 3,366 ft (1,026 m)
20°50′N 156°56′W / 20.833°N 156.933°W / 20.833;
The Forbidden Isle
7 69.5 sq mi (180.0 km2)
7 2.45/sq mi (0.944/km2)
8 1,250 ft (381 m)
21°54′N 160°10′W / 21.900°N 160.167°W / 21.900;
The Target Isle
8 44.6 sq mi (115.5 km2)
7 1,483 ft (452 m)
20°33′N 156°36′W / 20.550°N 156.600°W / 20.550;
Smaller islands, atolls, reefs
Hawaiian Islands from space.
Smaller islands, atolls, and reefs (all west of Niʻihau are
uninhabited) form the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, or Hawaiian
French Frigate Shoals
French Frigate Shoals (Kānemilohaʻi)
Gardner Pinnacles (Pūhāhonu)
Maro Reef (Nalukākala)
Pearl and Hermes
Midway Atoll (Pihemanu)
3-D perspective view of the southeastern Hawaiian Islands, with the
white summits of
Mauna Loa (4,170 m or 13,680 ft high) and
Mauna Kea (4,206 m or 13,799 ft high). The islands are the
tops of massive volcanoes, the bulk of which lie below the sea
surface. Ocean depths are colored from violet (5,750 m or
18,860 ft deep northeast of Maui) and indigo to light gray
(shallowest). Historical lava flows are shown in red, erupting from
the summits and rift zones of Mauna Loa, Kilauea, and Hualalai
volcanoes on Hawaiʻi.
The state of
Hawaii counts 137 "islands" in the Hawaiian chain.
This number includes all minor islands and islets, or very small
island, offshore of the main islands (listed above) and individual
islets in each atoll. These are just a few:
Moku Ola (Coconut Island, Hawaii)
Moku o Loʻe (Coconut Island, Oahu)
A composite satellite image from
NASA of the
Hawaiian Islands taken
from outer space. Click on the image for a larger view that shows the
main islands and the extended archipelago.
See also: List of
This chain of islands, or archipelago, developed as the Pacific Plate
moved slowly northwestward over a hotspot in the
Earth's mantle at a
rate of approximately 32 miles (51 km) per million years. Thus,
the southeast island is volcanically active, whereas the islands on
the northwest end of the archipelago are older and typically smaller,
due to longer exposure to erosion. The age of the archipelago has been
estimated using potassium-argon dating methods. From this study
and others, it is estimated that the northwestern most island,
Kure Atoll, is the oldest at approximately 28 million years (Ma);
while the southeastern most island, Hawaiʻi, is approximately 0.4 Ma
(400,000 years). The only active volcanism in the last 200 years has
been on the southeastern island, Hawaiʻi, and on the submerged but
growing volcano to the extreme southeast, Loʻihi. The Hawaiian
Volcano Observatory of the USGS documents recent volcanic activity and
provides images and interpretations of the volcanism.
Almost all of the magma of the hotspot has the composition of basalt,
and so the Hawaiian volcanoes are composed almost entirely of this
igneous rock. There is very little coarser-grained gabbro and diabase.
Nephelinite is exposed on the islands but is extremely rare. The
majority of eruptions in Hawaiʻi are Hawaiian-type eruptions because
basaltic magma is relatively fluid compared with magmas typically
involved in more explosive eruptions, such as the andesitic magmas
that produce some of the spectacular and dangerous eruptions around
the margins of the Pacific basin.
Eruptions from the
Hawaii hotspot left a trail of underwater mountains
across the Pacific over millions of years, called the Emperor
Hawaiʻi island (the Big Island) is the biggest and youngest island in
the chain, built from five volcanoes. Mauna Loa, taking up over half
of the Big Island, is the largest shield volcano on the Earth. The
measurement from sea level to summit is more than 2.5 miles
(4 km), from sea level to sea floor about 3.1 miles
Main article: List of earthquakes in Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands have many earthquakes, generally caused by
volcanic activity. Most of the early earthquake monitoring took place
in Hilo, by missionaries Titus Coan, Sarah J. Lyman and her family.
From 1833 to 1896, approximately 4 or 5 earthquakes were reported per
Hawaii accounted for 7.3% of the United States' reported earthquakes
with a magnitude 3.5 or greater from 1974 to 2003, with a total 1533
Hawaii ranked as the state with the third most
earthquakes over this time period, after
Alaska and California.
On October 15, 2006, there was an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7
off the northwest coast of the island of Hawaii, near the Kona area of
the big island. The initial earthquake was followed approximately five
minutes later by a magnitude 5.7 aftershock. Minor-to-moderate damage
was reported on most of the Big Island. Several major roadways became
impassable from rock slides, and effects were felt as far away as
Honolulu, Oahu, nearly 150 miles (240 km) from the epicenter.
Power outages lasted for several hours to days. Several water mains
ruptured. No deaths or life-threatening injuries were reported.
Earthquakes are monitored by the Hawaiian
Volcano Observatory run by
Aftermath of the 1960 Chilean tsunami in Hilo, Hawaiʻi, where the
tsunami left 61 people dead and 282 seriously injured. The waves
reached 35 feet (11 m) high.
Hawaiian Islands are subject to tsunamis, great waves that strike
the shore. Tsunamis are most often caused by earthquakes somewhere in
the Pacific. The waves produced by the earthquakes travel at speeds of
400–500 miles per hour (600–800 km/h) and can affect coastal
regions thousands of miles (kilometers) away.
Tsunamis may also originate from the Hawaiian Islands. Explosive
volcanic activity can cause tsunamis. The island of Molokaʻi had a
catastrophic collapse or debris avalanche over a million years ago;
this underwater landslide likely caused tsunamis. The
Hilina Slump on
the island of Hawaiʻi is another potential place for a large
landslide and resulting tsunami.
The city of
Hilo on the Big
Island has been most affected by tsunamis,
where the in-rushing water is accentuated by the shape of
Coastal cities have tsunami warning sirens.
A tsunami resulting from an earthquake in Chile hit the islands on
February 27, 2010. It was relatively minor, but local emergency
management officials utilized the latest technology and ordered
evacuations in preparation for a possible major event. The Governor
declared it a "good drill" for the next major event.
A tsunami resulting from an earthquake in Japan hit the islands on
March 11, 2011. It was relatively minor, but local officials ordered
evacuations in preparation for a possible major event. The tsunami
caused about $30.1 million in damages.
Endemism in the Hawaiian Islands, List of animal species
introduced to the Hawaiian Islands, and List of invasive plant species
The islands are home to many endemic species. Since human settlement,
first by Polynesians, non native trees, plants, and animals were
introduced. These included species such as rats and pigs, that have
preyed on native birds and invertebrates that initially evolved in the
absence of such predators. The growing population of humans has also
led to deforestation, forest degradation, treeless grasslands, and
environmental degradation. As a result, many species which depended on
forest habitats and food became extinct--with many current species
facing extinction. As humans cleared land for farming, monocultural
crop production replaced multi-species systems.
The arrival of the Europeans had a more significant impact, with the
promotion of large-scale single-species export agriculture and
livestock grazing. This led to increased clearing of forests, and the
development of towns, adding many more species to the list of extinct
animals of the Hawaiian Islands. As of 2009[update], many of the
remaining endemic species are considered endangered.
Wikinews has related news: Bush proclaims Northwestern Hawaiian
Islands a National Monument
On June 15, 2006, President
George W. Bush
George W. Bush issued a public
proclamation creating Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Antiquities Act of 1906. The Monument encompasses the
Hawaiian Islands and surrounding waters, forming the
largest marine wildlife reserve in the world. In August 2010,
World Heritage Committee
World Heritage Committee added Papahānaumokuākea to its
list of World Heritage Sites. On August 26, 2016,
Barack Obama greatly expanded Papahānaumokuākea,
quadrupling it from its original size.
Climate of Hawaii
The climate of the
Hawaiian Islands is tropical but it experiences
many different climates, depending on altitude and weather. The
islands receive most rainfall from the trade winds on their north and
east flanks (the windward side) as a result of orographic
precipitation. Coastal areas in general and especially the south
and west flanks or leeward sides, tend to be drier.
In general, the lowlands of
Hawaiian Islands receive most of their
precipitation during the winter months (October to April). Drier
conditions generally prevail from May to September. The tropical
storms, and occasional hurricanes, tend to occur from July through
United States portal
Island Cable System
Index of Hawaii-related articles
List of birds of Hawaii
List of fish of Hawaii
List of mountain peaks of Hawaii
List of Ultras of Hawaii
Maritime fur trade
Outline of Hawaii
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^ Macdonald, Abbott, and Peterson, 1984
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West Side of North America, Its Distance from Asia, and the
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^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Island
^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Maui
^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Oʻahu
^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Kauaʻi
^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System:
^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Lānaʻi
^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Niʻihau
^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System:
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Volcano World ; Your World is Erupting –
Oregon State University College of Science
State of Hawaii
Discovery and settlement
ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian Language)
Seal of Hawaii
French Frigate Shoals
Pearl and Hermes
2008 occupation of Iolani Palace
Geography of the United States
Northern Mariana Islands
U.S. Virgin Islands
Sala y Gómez
Wallis and Futuna
Wallis and Futuna Islands
Coordinates: 21°N 157°W / 21°N 157°W / 21; -157