Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, HI 96718, United States
GPS: 19.420027036586, -155.28757318709
Visiting Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, which was founded in 1916 and is located south of Big Island, in the U.S. state of Hawaii, is unforgettable. This land forms the main island of this tropical Pacific archipelago some 4,000 kilometres from the Californian coast. Prior to its discovery by the navigator James Cook in 1778, Hawaii was inhabited by Polynesian peoples who probably originated from the Marquesas Islands and Tahiti. This territory was ruled by local chiefs called aliʻi until the unification of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1810 under the reign of Kamehameha I.
With unique ecosystems and many endemic plant and animal habitats, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park has a total of five volcanoes in an area of 1,300 km². They are located in a high-risk area because of their position in the centre of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Two volcanoes stand out from the others because of their preponderant activity: Mauna Loa, the most massive in the world in terms of volume (exceeding Mount Everest if one takes into account its underground depth from the ocean floor which is 9,150 metres) and Kīlauea, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth (in continuous eruption since 1983). The Mauna Loa volcano is undoubtedly the one that worries specialists the most. Research confirms that its unstable flanks could collapse into the Pacific Ocean at any time and cause a shock wave leading to a huge tsunami. Several similar events are thought to have occurred in the eruptive history of the Hawaiian archipelago between 100 000 and 250 000 years ago as a result of earthquakes or landslides. But despite the threat and potential dangers they pose to Hawaii, the cone-shaped shield volcanoes of the archipelago remain easily accessible to the public.
These geological wonders formed the archipelago’s mountain range and volcanoes some 70 million years ago and continue to sculpt the Big Island’s coastline due to their intense volcanic activity. Since ancient times, probably the 8th century, these bubbling lands have been a sacred place for the native inhabitants of Hawaii Island. Today, the wilderness of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is a biosphere reserve and a living laboratory for volcanologists, who monitor seismic activity in the Pacific Ocean. Its volcanic landscapes of rainforests, lava fields and craters remain in constant flux, driven by the creative and destructive forces of some of the world’s most fearsome volcanoes.