On which island is Mauna Kea located

Volcanoes in Hawaii - power from the depths

At Kilauea, the molten rock from the interior of the earth flows very slowly down the mountain and here you can therefore get particularly close to the lava. This has been to be admired for years, because Kilauea is the most active volcano on earth. But that's not all - the Hawaiian volcanoes are also the highest mountains in the world from the ocean floor.

Hot spot in the Pacific

All of the Hawaiian Islands are of volcanic origin. They are lined up like on a chain in the middle of the Pacific. So far, more than 90 volcanoes have been discovered on this chain, but there could be more.

Hawaii is not, as is usual in most volcanic areas, on the edge of a joint between two tectonic plates, but in the middle of the Pacific plate. Therefore, researchers puzzled for a long time how volcanoes could have formed here.

In 1963 the volcanologist John Tuzo Wilson developed the theory of a "hot spot". It is a place where the upper mantle is particularly thin. Hot magma rises from the interior of the earth from the boundary between the earth's core and the earth's mantle upwards in a columnar fashion, getting relatively close to the earth's crust and melting it.

Hawaii is located in exactly such a "hot spot". Already 70 to 80 million years ago the lava began to break through at one point in the area of ​​the Hawaiian Islands.

The creation of the island chain

But why isn't there just one big volcano in Hawaii? This is due to the shifting of the earth plates. The Hawaiian archipelago is located on the Pacific Plate. It moved over the course of millions of years, but the "hot spot" did not. In this way new volcanoes and new islands were created.

Cold chambers remained through which the magma had risen; the older volcanoes went extinct. The youngest Hawaiian volcano is the Loihi. Its summit is about 1000 meters below sea level. In about 50,000 years, the volcano is expected to emerge from the sea and then likely merge with the Big Island.

Hawaiian shield volcanoes

The volcanoes in Hawaii are all shield volcanoes. Their shape is reminiscent of the shell of a turtle and they have very flat flanks.

90 percent of all volcanoes worldwide are shield volcanoes. The other ten percent are stratovolcanoes or cone volcanoes. They differ in that they have steep flanks and taper to a point. Famous representatives of the stratovolcanoes are Mount St. Helens in the USA and the Philippine Pinatubo.

The shield volcanoes in Hawaii clearly exceed Mount Everest in height - at least measured from the sea floor - which, at 8850 meters above sea level, is considered the highest mountain in the world. For example, Hawaii's highest volcano, Mauna Kea, is "only" 4207 meters above sea level, but its base is more than 5000 meters deep in the ocean.

The Hawaiian volcanoes consist of lavas, which are formed from thin magmas. There are two fundamentally different forms of lava in Hawaii: the Pahoehoe lava and the Aa lava.

The pahoehoe lava is rope-shaped or rope-shaped. It occurs when the upper layer cools and the lava flow continues below. So the upper skin is pushed together in folds.

The Aa-Lava is also called Brockenlava and looks like a freshly plowed field. As it cools, a thick crust forms that crumbles as the lava mass continues to grow.

The most active volcano in the world - Kilauea

The most active volcano on earth is Kilauea on the Big Island: the lava has been flowing here continuously since 1983. At 1,247 meters, it is located on the southeast flank of Mauna Loa.

Kilauea began to break through the earth's crust about 200,000 years ago, and only emerged from the sea 50,000 years ago. Today various lava flows flow away from there, flooding more than 60 square kilometers of land.

In the past few decades, some villages have fallen victim to the lava. More than 100 houses were destroyed. But one church was saved and rebuilt in another location, where it is safe from the 1,100 degree hot lava flows.

Because the lava of the shield volcanoes in Hawaii flows so slowly, it hardly poses any danger to humans. However, those who come too close can break in through the thin crust or have breathing difficulties due to the sulfur fumes.

The goddess of the volcanoes

The Hawaiians revere their volcanoes and therefore pay homage to what is probably the most dazzling figure in their mythology to this day. Pele is the goddess of fire and volcanoes. Her name means "molten lava".

According to belief, Pele lives on Mount Kilauea. The Hawaiians bring offerings such as gin, cigarettes or flower wreaths to the rim of the crater in her honor. They also dance the hula for Pele on the edge of the volcano.

Some geological finds are named after Pele. Hair-shaped volcanic glass, for example, is referred to as the "hair of the pele". It occurs when lava fountains are hurled out of the earth's interior and pulled apart by the wind for meters.

The "tears of the pele" are formed in the same way as the "hair", only here the lava is not drawn out. Instead, it drips and cools to black, shiny spheres that are usually only a few millimeters in size.