How Were the Hawaiian Islands Formed?

How Were the Hawaiian Islands Formed?
Offering some of the most stunning scenery in the world, the origins of the Hawaiian Islands are as dramatic as their beauty.

The Hawaiian Island Chain

The Hawaiian Islands include eight major islands (Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Kauai and Ni'ihau), and over 200 minor islands in the Pacific Ocean.



All islands in the Hawaiian Island chain were created through volcanic activity on the sea floor, by a "hot spot" under the Pacific Plate.

Hot Spots

As the ocean floor moved slowly over this hot spot, continuous upwellings of lava over 70 million years created volcanoes that moved along the plate, resulting in a string of over 80 volcanoes that became the Hawaiian Islands.

Island Formation

As these volcanoes lifted, grew and cooled, the largest appeared above the surface and became basalt islands with gentle, sloping volcanoes and lava flows.

Island Progression

Moving up the chain from Hawaii, the islands become older and less active volcanically. There are currently three active volcanoes in Hawaii: Kilauea, Mauna Loa (dormant) and Lohi, a submerged island south of Hawaii. Haleakala, on Maui, last erupted in the 18th century.

Viewing Volcanoes

Today, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park provides stunning views of Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on earth, as well as of Kilauea's eruptions, offering a fascinating glimpse of the island's fiery origins.



Article Written By Angela Mitchell

Angela Mitchell is a freelance writer, editor and playwright with more than 200 published features to her credit since 1993. Her articles have appeared in everything from "Writer's Digest," to "Computer Currents," "Markee," "ParentGuide," "Antique Trader Weekly," and more.

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