1.) The State of Hawaii is composed of 132 islands, reefs and shoals that extend for over 1500 miles across the central North Pacific Ocean from the “Big Island” of Hawaii to Midway and Kure Atolls.
2.) The eight main high islands of the Hawaiian Archipelago include Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau and Kahoolawe (listed in order of size) which extend for only 350 milesat the south-eastern end of the volcanic mountain-island chain.
3.) Hawaii includes some of the Earth’s largest mountains, rising from oceanic depths of greater than 18,000 feet to a height above sea level of nearly 14,000 feet. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island are volcanic mountains with a total relief of nearly 32,000 feet.
4.) The entire Island of Hawaii, with its five large volcanoes of Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, and new submerged volcano of Loihi, is less than 450,000 years old.
5.) Kauai and Niihau, at 5 million years, are the oldest of the main high islands. The volcanic portion of the Midway and Kure Atolls are 28 million years old.
6.) An underwater portion of the Hawaiian Volcanic Ridge and Emperor Seamounts extend to the northwest and north for another 1600 miles to make the entire Hawaiian-Emperor Volcanic Chain over 3100 miles long. It contains 107 volcanic mountains and represents vol-canism that has been going on for over 70 million years as the Earth’s Pacific Tectonic Plate has moved across theHawaiian Magmatic Hot Spot at a rate of about 3.5 inches per year.
7.) The Hawaiian Islands are the Earth’s most isolated parcels of land lying in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean some 2400 milesfrom both the nearest continental land mass, North America, and other islands of Polynesia in the South Pacific Ocean.
8.) Owing to their isolation, the Hawaiian Islands are biologically unique. They were colonized initially only by the relatively few species of plants and animals that were suitably adapted for the long journey over 2400+ miles of open ocean. Hawaii has no native land reptiles or amphibians and only two native mammals, the horay bat and monk seal. Even in the surrounding ocean the number of coral species are limited and nearly 25% of inshore fishes are endemic (i.e., found only in Hawaiian waters). Over 4300 species of plants and animals exist only in the eight high islands. The 1000 native plants evolved from as few as 280 original plant colonists and 100 endemic bird species developed from as few as 15 original aviators.
9.) The Islands of Hawaii were one of the last places on Earth discovered and occupied by humans. There is little or no evidence of human contact of any kind before about 100 AD. The first significant colonies, made by ocean voyaging Polynesians, were not established until around 400-600 AD. Modern contact was not made until only 220 years ago when Captain James Cook first encountered Kauai on January 19, 1778.
10.) Kauai is geologically the most mature of the main Hawaiian Islands with extensive development of broad, lush erosional valleys and coastal features such as fringing coral/algal reefs and sandy beaches. Spectacular Waimea Canyon, at over 2500 feet deep, is Hawaii’s largest erosional valley. Nearly 50% of Kauai’s 111 miles of coastline are lined with beautiful beaches, derived mainly from wave erosion of reef producing coral and algae. Only about one-third of Oahu’s coastline consists of beaches.
There are many more amazing facts about Kauai and the other islands of Hawaii. Consider becoming a participant in one of Kauai Nature Tours Guided Adventures or one of TEOK Investigations Science Seminars to learn more about these isolated islands and about the interactive aspects of the Earth’s environment and the humans that now influence it in such a dominating manner.