hawaii island

Hawaiʻi is said to have been named for Hawaiʻiloa, the legendary Polynesian navigator who first discovered it. Other accounts attribute the name to the legendary realm of Hawaiki, a place from which the Polynesians originated (see also Manua), the place where they go in the afterlife, the realm of the gods.

Captain James Cook, who called them the “Sandwich isles”, was killed on the island at Kealakekua Bay. Hawaiʻi was the home island of Pai`ea Kamehameha, called Kamehameha I Kamehameha the Great, who by 1795 united most of the Hawaiian Islands under his rule after several years of war. He gave his Kingdom of Hawaii the name of his native island, and the islands now are known collectively as “Hawaiian Islands“.

Geology and geography

In greatest dimension, the island is 93 miles (150 km) across and has a land area of 4,028 square miles (10,430 km2)comprising 62% of the Hawaiian Islands‘ land area. Measured from its sea floor base to its peak, Mauna Kea is the world’s tallest mountain, taller than Mount Everest.


The five shield volcanoes

The Island of Hawaiʻi is built from five separate shield volcanoes that erupted somewhat sequentially, one overlapping the other. These are (from oldest to youngest):

Geological evidence from exposures of old surfaces on the south and west flanks of Mauna Loa led to the proposal that two ancient volcanic shields (named Ninole and Kulani) were all but buried by the younger Mauna Loa.[3] Geologists now consider these “outcrops” to be part of the earlier building of Mauna Loa.

Because Mauna Loa and Kīlauea are active volcanoes, the island of Hawaiʻi is still growing. Between January 1983 and September 2002, lava flows added 543 acres (220 ha) to the island. Kīlauea destroyed several towns: Kapoho (1960), Kalapana (1990), and Kaimū (1990). In 1987 lava filled in Queen’s Bath, a large, L-shaped, freshwater pool in the Kalapana area.

Steam plume as Kīlauea red lava enters the ocean at three Waikupanaha and one Ki lava ocean entries. Some surface lava is seen too. The image was taken 04/16/08.

Hawaiʻi is the southernmost island in the Hawaiian archipelago, and contains the southernmost point in the United States, (Ka Lae). The nearest landfall to the south would be in the Line Islands. To the north is the island of Maui, whose Haleakalā volcano is visible across the Alenuihāhā Channel.

Eighteen miles (29 km) off Hawaiʻi Island’s southeast coast is the undersea volcano known as Lōʻihi. Lōʻihi is an erupting seamount that lies 3,200 feet (980 m) below the ocean surface. Continued volcanic activity from Lōʻihi will likely cause the volcano to breach sea level and attach at the surface to Kīlauea, adding even more land to Hawaiʻi. This event is presently expected in some tens of thousands of years.

The Great Crack

The Great Crack is an 8-mile (13 km) long, 60 feet (18 m) wide and 60 feet (18 m) deep fissure in the island, in the district of Kaʻū. The Great Crack is actually the

“result of crustal dilation from magmatic intrusions into the southwest rift zone and not from the seaward movement of the south flank. There is no evidence that the Great Crack is getting bigger at this time or that the island is tearing apart along this seam.” Furthermore, neither the 1868 nor the 1975 earthquakes caused measurable change in The Great Crack.

Rifts like the Great Crack are often the sites of volcanic eruptions, and in 1823 lava welled out of the lower 10 kilometers (6 mi) of the Great Crack.

Photo showing clouds of steam surrounding lava that is partly black and partly glowing orange

Lava enters the Pacific at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in April of 2005, increasing the size of the island.

One can find trails, rock walls, and archaeological sites from as old as the 12th century around the Great Crack. Much of these finds are on the park side of the fence. About 1,951 acres (7.90 km2) of private land beyond the fence were purchased during the Bill Clinton administration specifically to protect the various artifacts in this area as well as to protect the habitat of the turtles.

Photo of coastline with 10 people standing or walking on the beach and palm trees in background

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park

The Hilina Slump

Main article: Hilina Slump

The Hilina Slump is a 4,760 cubic miles (19,800 km3) chunk of the south slope of the Kīlauea volcano which is slipping away from the island. Between 1990 and 1993, Global Positioning System measurements showed a southward displacement up to approximately 10 centimeters per year.[5] Undersea measurements show that a “bench” has formed a buttress and that

“this buttress may tend to reduce the likelihood of future catastrophic detachment.”

Earthquakes and Tsunamis

On April 2, 1868, an earthquake with a magnitude estimated between 7.25 and 7.75 on the Richter scale rocked the southeast coast of Hawaiʻi. It triggered a landslide on Mauna Loa, five miles (8 km) north of Pahala, killing 31 people. A tsunami claimed 46 additional lives. The villages of Punaluʻu, Nīnole, Kawaʻa, Honuapo|Honuʻapo, and Keauhou Landing were severely damaged. According to one account, the tsunami

“rolled in over the tops of the coconut trees, probably 60 feet (18 m) high … inland a distance of a quarter of a mile in some places, taking out to sea when it returned, houses, men, women, and almost everything movable.”

On November 29, 1975, a 37-mile (60 km) wide section of the Hilina Slump dropped 11.5 feet (3.5 m) and slid 26 feet (7.9 m) toward the ocean. This movement caused a 7.2 magnitude earthquake and a 48 feet (10 m) high tsunami. Oceanfront properties were washed off their foundations in Punaluʻu. Two deaths were reported at Halapē, and 19 others were injured.

The island suffered tsunami damage from earthquakes in Chile in 1946 and Alaska on 27 March 1964. Downtown Hilo was severely damaged in both, with many lives lost. Just north of Hilo, Laupāhoehoe lost 16 school children and 5 teachers in the 1946 tsunami.

On February 27, 2010, A new tsunami warning/evacuation had been issued for the Hawaiian islands several hours prior to its hit on the Hawaiian state’s shorelines, originally triggered by the great earthquake of 2010 Chile. The tsunami initially struck at 11:55 a.m. local Hawaiian time, causing a 3 foot surge on the main island of Hawaii.


As of 2008[update], the island had a resident population of 175,784.[9] As of 2000[update],[10] there were 148,677 people, 52,985 households, and 36,877 families residing in the county. The population density was 14/km² (37/mi²). There were 62,674 housing units at an average density of 6/km² (16/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 31.55% White, 0.47% African American, 0.45% Kanaka Maoli, 26.70% Asian, 11.25% Pacific Islander, 1.14% from other races, and 28.44% from two or more races. 9.49% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race.

There were 52,985 households out of which 32.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.60% were married couples living together, 13.20% had a woman whose husband did not live with her, and 30.40% were non-families. 23.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.75 and the average family size was 3.24.

The age distribution was 26.10% under 18, 8.20% from 18 to 24, 26.20% from 25 to 44, 26.00% from 45 to 64, and 13.50% who were 65 or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 100 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98 males.


Sugarcane was the backbone of Hawaiʻi Island’s economy for more than a century (see Sugar plantations in Hawaii). In the mid-twentieth century, sugar plantations began to downsize and by 1996, the last plantation had closed.

Most of Hawaiʻi Island’s economy is based on tourism (see Tourism in Hawaii), centered primarily on the leeward (western) coast of the island in the North Kona and South Kohala districts.

However, diversified agriculture is a growing sector of the economy. Major crops include Macadamia nuts, papaya, flowers, tropical and temperate vegetables, and coffee beans. Kona coffee-branded products must be from the district on this island only. The island’s reputation for orchids has earned it another nickname of “The Orchid Isle.” The island is home to one of the United States’ largest cattle ranches: Parker Ranch, on 175,000 acres (708 km2) in Waimea.

Astronomy is another industry, with numerous telescopes on Mauna Kea because the summit atmosphere’s clarity is excellent and there is little light pollution.


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