- from Hawaii
Oozing up through cracks in the ocean floor, super-hot lava (melted rock) meets ocean water and 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, and an island is born.
The volcano keeps erupting, the lava keeps flowing, perhaps mingling with lava from a nearby volcano, and the island grows. This is the process that gave birth to every single one of the 132 Hawaiian islands. 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. It is still several thousand feet below sea level, and scientists predict it will emerge in approximately 30,000 years. However, it already has a name – Loihi.
The emergence of the islands from the sea is one part of the story, but how did they get so green and lush? Where did the plants and animals come from, and how were they affected by the arrival of humans?