Know Your Volcanoes

Big IslandUp in the Air

No matter how you choose to fl y, an AIR TOUR OF HAWAI‘I ISLAND is likely to bring into view the island’s intriguing assortment of VOLCANOES. Here’s a short prefl ight briefi ng on some of them:

KĪLAUEA: One of the Earth’s most ACTIVE VOLCANOES, it is located in HAWAI‘I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK on the southeastern fl ank of MAUNA LOA. This volcano has been pumping molten lava over the landscape since 1983, simultaneously developing new real estate and leaving destruction in its wake. In May 2018, the volcano caused a commotion when, new fi ssures broke out in the Leilani Estates neighborhood of Puna. There is some debate on whether this newest activity marks the end of the 1983 eruption and the start of a new eruption.

MAUNA LOA: A massive volcano that spreads over half of the Big Island’s 4,034 square miles, Mauna Loa rises 13,680 feet from sea level. Measured from its fl anks on the ocean fl oor, the mountain reaches 30,080 feet at its summit. Sixty miles long and 30 miles wide, Mauna Loa is the LARGEST VOLCANIC MOUNTAIN IN THE WORLD and the THIRD LARGEST SHIELD VOLCANO IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM , smaller only than volcanoes on Venus and Mars. It has erupted 39 times since 1832, the most recent being in 1984.

MAUNA KEA: The TALLEST ISLAND- MOUNTAIN IN THE WORLD, Mauna Kea stands 13,803 feet above sea level, and rises 33,476 feet from the ocean fl oor. At its summit, where snow sometimes falls, the WORLD’S LARGEST ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY houses telescopes operated by astronomers from all over the world.

KOHALA: The oldest of fi ve volcanoes that make up the island of Hawai‘i, Kohala is estimated to be 1 MILLION YEARS OLD— so old that it experienced (and recorded) a reversal of magnetic fi eld 780,000 years ago. The volcano is cut by multiple deep gorges and, unlike typically symmetric Hawaiian volcanoes, is SHAPED LIKE A FOOT, due to a huge landslide 250,000-300,000 years ago that destroyed its northeast fl ank.

HUALĀLAI: Though not nearly as active as Mauna Loa or Kīlauea, Hualalai is the THIRD MOST HISTORICALLY ACTIVE BIG ISLAND VOLCANO. Six diff erent vents erupted between the late 1700s and 1801, two of which generated lava fl ows that poured into the sea on the west coast of the island. Keāhole Airport is built atop the larger fl ow.

LŌ‘IHI: Fifteen miles off the southeast coast of the island, Lō‘ihi thunders 3,000 feet beneath the Pacifi c Ocean. Someday, thousands of years from now, the SUBMARINE VOLCANO will emerge to form a NEW ISLAND.