Introduction: Birth of the Islands
Hawaiians told the story of their Islands being pulled up from the sea by the demi-god Maui, condensing geologic reality into a poetic version that related history while it applauded strength, bravery and perseverance. In many other legends and chants, Hawaiians displayed their keen observation of nature and its workings, surmising in the creation chant Kumulipo
even the first movements of life in that time long before humans reached the Islands. Other tales like those of Pele gave narrative shape to phenomena such as volcanic eruptions. Scientific knowledge of the Islands' birth now mirrors that ancient wisdom.
As the northernmost corner of the Polynesian triangle, the Hawaiian Islands join the collection of atolls, volcanic remnants, coral blocks and large islands that punctuate the region stretching to Aotearoa (New Zealand) in the south and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the east. Hawai`i represents the newest landmass in Polynesia and the most isolated area to welcome human settlement. Geologically young as well as geographically isolated, Hawaii's location and formation led to the development of unique environments, rich in diversity and natural abundance.
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