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Introduction: Birth of the Islands
Geological origins
Water cycle
Flora & Fauna

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Geological origins

A hotspot beneath the Pacific Plate created Hawaii's volcanic islands. As this hotspot has remained stationary over the last 40 million years, the plate above has drifted west-northwest at a rate of three and a half inches per year. Over time, the hotspot resulted in 82 volcanoes emerging to form the Hawaiian Ridge. While Kaua`i and Ni`ihau date back five million years, the volcanoes of Hawai`i island are the newest in the line. Underwater eruptions at Lo`ihi, off the southern end of Hawai`i, will eventually break the ocean's surface to form a new land mass.

From Hawai`i to Ni`ihau, the islands show the dramatic history of eruptions, landslides and erosion. Eons of wind and rain created knife-edged cliffs and steep valleys while pounding surf and currents carved bays and points. Islands like Maui Nui - originally large masses of land - have diminished and broken into separate islands. Maui Nui became Maui, Lana`i, Moloka`i and Kaho`olawe. Perhaps one day the same will happen to Hawai`i island's Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai and Kohala Mountains.

Kilauea volcano on Hawai`i island is today the most active volcano on earth, erupting 60 times since 1840. The current ongoing eruption began in 1983 and has added many square miles of new land to the island. The process of plant colonization over freshly-cooled flows gives a modern glimpse at ancient processes as the cycle of destruction and creation continues.

 Sites for further information

Water for Life- Honolulu Board of water supply

The Offical Site of the Hawai`i Volcano Observatory (U.S. Geological Survey)

"The Birth of the Islands" (Star-Bulletin)

"Formation and Description of the Hawaiian Archipelago" (National Park Service)

"Hawaii: Born of Fire" (PBS, NOVA)

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