Hawaii / Science

Hawaii: Another “Hot Spot”

 

Hawaii volcano

While gazing at the panorama of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head, a strange coincidence occurred to me. I realized that the first and last stops on our RTW are both locations which have active volcanoes. Geology-types have these kinds of thoughts, which is why they don’t get invited for drinks the second time.

The first stop on our trip was Reykjavik, Iceland, and if you read this post, or have followed the headlines, you realize that Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano has been violently blowing its top on a regular basis. The big surprise for me was that I was able to photograph a smoldering volcano from the middle of town.

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The photo at the top of this post is the extinct volcano Diamond Head, which is a constant reminder of Hawaii’s volcanic origins. But don’t let its dormant state fool you. Just 200 miles away on The Big Island of Hawaii, is Mauna Loa, the most active volcano in the world.

The Big Island, and in fact, all the Islands of Hawaii, were caused by two natural forces. First, the tectonic plate which underlies Hawaii is moving to the northwest. And second, a “hot spot” is generating lava which forms volcanoes on the seafloor. When the volcanic mountain gets tall enough, it rises above sea level, and another island is added to the chain. So as the process proceeds over millions of years, the tectonic plate continues to move northwest, while the hot spot stays in place and forms a new volcano on the seafloor.

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The Big Island is the youngest island, and Kauai is the oldest. And FYI, there is another subsea volcano southeast of the Big Island which should rise above the sea in about 10,000 years. This island will be called Loihi, and some enthusiastic realtor is probably already advertising ocean-view lots.

Happy Trails,
James

P.S. And someone who was REALLY paying attention might wonder why Santorini wasn’t included in this post. It’s Blogger Rule #5. When it comes to volcanoes, less is more.

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