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Hawaiian Islands

Belongs to subject Geography of Islands

The Hawaiian Islands (Hawaiian: Mokupuni Hawai‘i) are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) from the island of Hawaiʻi in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll. The contemporary name is derived from the name of the largest island, Hawaii Island. The islands are about 1,860 miles (3,000 km) from the nearest continent.

The Hawaiian Islands have a total land area of 6,423.4 square miles (16,636.5 km). Except for Midway, which is an unincorporated territory of the United States, these islands and islets are administered as Hawaii—the 50th state of the United States.

The eight main islands of Hawaii (also called the Hawaiian Windward Islands) are listed here. Hawaiʻi

The Big Island

1 4,028.0 sq mi (10,432.5 km)


4 45.948/sq mi (17.7407/km)

1 13,796 ft (4,205 m)


19°34′N 155°30′W / 19.567°N 155.500°W / 19.567; 727.2 sq mi (1,883.4 km)


2 198.630/sq mi (76.692/km)


2 10,023 ft (3,055 m)


20°48′N 156°20′W / 20.800°N 156.333°W / 3 596.7 sq mi (1,545.4 km)

ft (1,220 m)


21°28′N 157°59′W / 21.467°N 157.983°W / 21.467; The Garden Isle

4 552.3 sq mi (1,430.5 km)

3 121.168/sq mi (46.783/km)


3 5,243 ft (1,598 m)


22°05′N 159°30′W / 22.083°N 159.500°W / 22.083; -159.500 (Kauai)


The Friendly Isle

5 260.0 sq mi (673.4 km)

5 28.250/sq mi (10.9074/km)

4 4,961 ft (1,512 m)


21°08′N 157°02′W / 21.133°N 157.033°W / 6 140.5 sq mi (363.9 km)


6 22.313/sq mi (8.615/km)


6 3,366 ft (1,026 m)


20°50′N 156°56′W / 20.833°N 156.933°W / sq mi (180.0 km)

8 1,250 ft (381 m)


21°54′N 160°10′W / 21.900°N 160.167°W / 21.900; The Target Isle

8 44.6 sq mi (115.5 km)


8 0/sq mi (0/km)

ft (452 m)


20°33′N 156°36′W / 20.550°N 156.600°W / 20.550; Smaller islands, atolls, and reefs (all west of Niʻihau are uninhabited) form the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, or Hawaiian Leeward Islands:

Nihoa (Mokumana) Necker (Mokumanamana) French Frigate Shoals (Kānemilohaʻi) Lisianski Island (PapaʻāpohoThe state of Hawaii counts 137 "islands" in the Hawaiian chain. This number includes all minor islands and islets, or very small islands, offshore of the main islands (listed above) and individual islets in each atoll. Moku Ola (Coconut Island, Hawaii) Moku Loʻe (Coconut Island, Oahu) Sand Island Grass Island

This chain of islands, or archipelago, developed as the Pacific Plate moved slowly northwestward over a hotspot in the Earth's mantle at a rate of approximately 32 miles (51 km) per million years. Thus, the southeast island is volcanically active, whereas the islands on the northwest end of the archipelago are older and typically smaller, due to longer exposure to erosion. From this study and others, it is estimated that the northwesternmost island, Kure Atoll, is the oldest at approximately 28 million years (Ma); while the southeasternmost island, Hawaiʻi, is approximately 0.4 Ma (400,000 years). Nephelinite is exposed on the islands but is extremely rare. Hawaiʻi island (the Big Island) is the biggest and youngest island in the chain, built from five volcanoes. The Hawaiian Islands have many earthquakes, generally caused by volcanic activity. From 1833 to 1896, approximately 4 or 5 earthquakes were reported per year. On October 15, 2006, there was an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 off the northwest coast of the island of Hawaii, near the Kona area of the big island. Tsunamis are most often caused by earthquakes somewhere in the Pacific. Tsunamis may also originate from the Hawaiian Islands. Explosive volcanic activity can cause tsunamis. The island of Molokaʻi had a catastrophic collapse or debris avalanche over a million years ago; this underwater landslide likely caused tsunamis. The Hilina Slump on the island of Hawaiʻi is another potential place for a large landslide and resulting tsunami. A tsunami resulting from an earthquake in Chile hit the islands on February 27, 2010. A tsunami resulting from an earthquake in Japan hit the islands on March 11, 2011. The islands are home to many endemic species.

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