Aloha! Greetings from Hawaii! Prepare yourself for a bumper, geo-heavy slab of Hawaiian fun-facts. Don’t make me define “fun” or “facts”…

  1. The Hawaiian Islands (Hawaiian: Mokupuni o Hawai‘i) are an archipelago of eight major islands (Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and the Big Island of Hawaii), several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and undersea seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 2,400 km from the island of Hawaiʻi in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll. In short, this archipelago is massive, although it’s location, near the centre of the vast Pacific Ocean (3,000 km from the nearest continent), makes it seem small. Interestingly, from east to west, Hawaii is the widest state in the United States!
  1. The Hawaiian Islands were formerly known to Europeans and Americans as the “Sandwich Islands“, a name chosen by James Cook in honour of the then First Lord of the Admiralty John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. The contemporary name is derived from the name of the largest island, Hawaii Island, which home to Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and Kilauea volcanoes.
  1. The Hawaiian Islands are the exposed peaks of a great undersea mountain range known as the Hawaiian–Emperor Seamount Chain, formed by volcanic activity as the Pacific Plate drifted north-westwards, at a rate of c. 51 km per million years, over a hotspot in the Earth’s mantle. Thus, the southeast island is the youngest (Hawai’i initiated at 0.4 Ma or in the Pleistocene) volcanically active, whereas those towards the northwest are older (Kure Atoll is c. 28 Ma or in the Late Oligocene), inactive and typically smaller, due to longer exposure to erosion. Check out this video. The age of the archipelago has been estimated using potassium-argon (K-Ar) dating methods. The only active volcanism in the last 200 years has been on the south-easternmost island, HawaiʻI; however, further to the southeast is the submerged but actively growing submarine volcano, Loʻihi.
  1. Because of its continuous volcanic eruptions, Hawai’i is the only state in the US to have an increasing land area. Hawai’i (Big Island) grows by roughly 0.2 km2 each year due to lava flows sourced from Kilauea. This isn’t actually that much when you think about it.
  1. 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, a fine-grained or aphanitic igneous rock made up almost entirely of nepheline and clinopyroxene, 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. See here the rather more racy, Kamoamo fissure eruption that occurred in 2011.
  1. The Hawaiian Islands have many earthquakes, generally caused by volcanic activity. On October 15th 2006, there was a 6.7 magnitude earthquake off the NW coast of the island of Hawaii, near the Kona area of 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, including several rockslides that blocked major roads. The earthquake was felt as far away as Honolulu, Oahu, c. 240 km from the epicentre. No deaths or life-threatening injuries were reported.
  1. The history of Hawaii describes the era of human settlements in the Hawaiian Islands. That history begins sometime between 124 and 800 AD, with some theories dating the earliest Polynesian settlements to the 10th Around 1200, Tahitian explorers found and began settling the area. This began the rise of the Hawaiian civilization. It remained isolated from the rest of the world for another 500 years. 500. Years.
  1. Europeans, led by British explorer James Cook, arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. Within five years European military technology helped Kamehameha I conquer and unify the islands for the first time; establishing the Kingdom of Hawaii.
  1. American immigration began almost immediately after European contact, led by Protestant missionaries. American farmers began cultivating sugar, with their methods of plantation farming required substantial labour. As a result, waves of permanent immigrants came from Japan, China and the Philippines to work in the fields.
  1. The population boom meant that many of the native population succumbed to disease, declining from 300,000 in the 1770s to 24,000 in 1920. Americans within the kingdom government rewrote the constitution, severely curtailing the power of King “David” Kalākaua, and the rights of Native Hawaiians and Asian citizens to vote. Queen Liliuokalani attempted to restore royal powers in 1893 and was overthrown by businessmen with help from the US military. The Republic of Hawaii was formed for a short time until the government agreed to join the US in 1898 as the Territory of Hawaii. In 1959 the islands became the state of Hawaii of the United States. This story is quite sad, I think.
  1. The word Hawai’i is from the Proto-Polynesian ‘hawaiki’, meaning “place of the gods” or “homeland”. Hawaii’s nickname is the ‘Aloha State’. The word ‘aloha’ is derived from the Proto-Polynesian, ‘alofa’, and its meanings include “love,” “compassion,” and “mercy”. Aloha is used both as “hello” and “goodbye”.
  1. Born in Hawaii, Barack Obama is the only president from outside the continental United States. Please come back Barack. We need you.
  1. Hawaii is the most isolated population centre on the face of the earth, lying 2,390 miles from California, 3,850 miles from Japan, 4,900 miles from China, and 5,280 miles from the Philippines.
  1. More than one-third of the world’s commercial supply of pineapples comes from Hawaii. I like pineapple. Although it has NO PLACE ON A PIZZA.
  1. There are only 12(!) letters in the Hawaiian alphabet. There are the standard five vowels (A, E, I, O, U) but only seven consonants (H, K, L, M, N, P, W).
  1. Hawaii was the 50th state admitted to the union on August 20th, 1959. See fact 10.
  1. There are no racial or ethnic majorities in Hawaii. Everyone is a minority. Caucasians (Haoles) constitute c. 34%; Japanese-American c. 32%; Filipino-American c. 16% and Chinese-American c. 5%. It is very difficult to determine racial identification as most of the population has some mixture of ethnicities. Amen to that.
  1. Hawaii has lost more wildlife species and has more endangered species than any other state in the US, principally due to the introduction of non-native, invasive species brought in by immigrants through the ages. For example, c. 70% of the state’s native birds are extinct and the rest are listed as being in danger of becoming extinct.
  2. Hawaii was the first US state to ban plastic bags. In July 2015, Oahu, the most populated Hawaiian island, joined the other Hawaiian islands and banned plastic bags from their stores.
  1. The eight horizontal stripes on Hawaii’s flag represent each of the state’s main islands. In the upper-left corner of the flag is a small version of Britain’s flag that honours British captain George Vancouver, who gave Hawaii its first flag in 1794.
  1. The highest sea cliffs in the world are on Moloka’i. These cliffs tower >1 km above the Pacific Ocean!
  1. Hawaii is one of four states to have outlawed billboards (the others are Alaska, Maine, and Vermont). Random.

Author: Christopher Aiden-Lee Jackson

I am Professor of Basin Analysis @imperialcollege. I ❤️ 🏃🏿, 🚴🏿 and @basinsIC (⛏). I obsess about the tectono-stratigraphic development of sedimentary basins. Why? Because I'm hopeless at everything else.

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