- from Hawaii
Super-hot lava oozes up through cracks in the ocean floor. As it flows into ocean water, it starts to cool and harden.
Over hundreds of thousands of years, more and more lava pours out and cools, forming an underwater mountain. Eventually, the mountaintop emerges from the sea. An island is born.
The volcano keeps erupting, and the lava keeps flowing, perhaps mixing with lava from a nearby volcano. The island grows. This is how every one of the 132 Hawaiian islands was born. The oldest islands are at the northwest end of the chain. The youngest island, Hawai`i, at the extreme southeast end of the chain, still has two active volcanoes – Mauna Loa and Kilauea. And the process is not over. To the south of Hawai`i, a new island is forming. Still several thousand feet below sea level, it is expected to emerge in about 30,000 years. However, it already has a name – Loihi.
The formation of the islands is only the first part of the story. How did they become so green and lush? Where did the plants and animals come from, and how did the arrival of humans affect native plants and animals?