Hawaii Photo Safari

Hawaii Photo Safari

May 13, 2022 — Excited to leave for Hawaii in the morning for a two-week Hawaii photo safari. Island immersion here we come! Geologists, Botanists, and Astronomers paradise. And as a former geologist and now painter, I should mention that it’s also an artist’s paradise. Can’t wait to paint from the reference photos I take on this Hawaii photo safari! I’ll be on Maui for one week, Hawaii the next. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on this geologic “hot spot” that formed the islands, probably a decade exactly, but we used to go every every other year or so. Here’s an early painting, from memory, employing magical realism, of Hawaii.

Early painting of Hawaii, getting ready for Hawaii photo safari
Warrior Woman, a very bad photo of an early piece of art. Getting inspired for Hawaii Photo Safari!

I’ll let the Artful Gents tell you about the geology of Hawaii as I keep packing for my Hawaii Photo Safari!

Research conducted by scientists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has made Kilauea one of the most studied volcanoes in the world, casting a bright light on the origins of the Hawaiian island chain, as well as on the Earths origins. Kilauea and the worlds largest mountain, the two most active volcanoes, are still adding land to the Hawaiian Island chain.    Show Source Texts

In particular, the Hawaiian Ridge is composed of five major volcanic islands that are undergoing regrowth toward the south (Figure 2b), with the largest (Hawaii Island) Island still developing from multiple eruptions of the volcanoes Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and more recently the volcano Kilauea (Figure 2c), the latter being among the most active volcanoes worldwide (USGS Summary). The Big Island of Hawaii is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, consisting of five volcanoes (Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and a hotspot). Located near the center of the Pacific Plate atop the hot spot, the volcanic chain consisting of eight main islands and 124 small islands extends 1,500 miles outwards from the Big Island of Hawaii on a northwestern line to Japan and the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.    Show Source Texts

In fact, Hawaiis chain of volcanic islands are shield volcanoes, named for their similarity to the shape of a warriors shield. Tiny dots on a map of the Central Pacific, the Hawaiian archipelago is in fact the tip of a mighty range of mountains, arguably the largest range of mountains on Earth, built from the seafloor up through thousands upon thousands of eruptions. The Hawaiian Archipelagos formation began almost 70 million years ago, as lava flowed out from a lingering hotspot on the seafloor, creating islands one after another, as the Pacific tectonic plate moved slowly northwest.    Show Source Texts

The Hawaiian-Emperor Chain Over the course of approximately 70 million years, the combined processes of magma formation, eruptions, and continuous Pacific Plate movement above the Aleutian Trench left behind a path of volcanoes on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, which we now refer to as the Hawaiian-Emperor Chain. The Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain formed over 70 million years, when the Pacific Plate glided northwestwards above an immobile hotspot (an upwelling of Earths molten mantle). The movement above a local volcanic hotspot, a python, produced the volcanic island chain, one after another, assembly-line style. The magma pool is fixed beneath a moving tectonic plate, so as Earths crust slips, older volcanoes slide along with it, shutting down, and new ones are built up over the hot spot (Fig.    Show Source Texts

It is easier to explain the geological explanation for the volcanoes in plate-spreading centers and subduction zones, but it is not so simple to explain a hotspot. In fact, when geologists mapped out the most active volcanoes on the planet, they found that the majority followed the plates boundaries. Most islands are found on the boundaries of the tectonic plates, either coming out from spreading centers like Iceland, or coming from subduction zones (like the Aleutians).    Show Source Texts

Although volcanic, those of the Hawaiian archipelago, the Hawaiian chain, are derived from volcanoes, and the ones to their northwest were sufficiently eroded in their geologic history to remain primarily today as reefs and sand islands with no flowing freshwater. The states most northern islands, including Oahu and Maui, were part of the Hawaii-Emperor Seamount chain, but they have since moved away from the states most northern islands magmatic sources, while Hawaii, a recent addition to the chain, remains volcanically active. Centrally located on the Pacific Plate, Hawaiis thermal center is the source of both the Hawaiian Islands archipelago and its northern branch, the Emperor seamount chain (Fig. As the Pacific Plate moves a chain of volcano islands in a piggyback fashion north-westward, the Hawaii big island would fall prey to subsidence and erosion, too, ultimately meeting a fate similar to Mauna Kea.    Show Source Texts

This submergence of landmass has caused the other volcanoes to drift away from Hawaiis hot spot, and a significant part of the Big Island of Hawaii has disappeared into the ocean. Erupting over and over, over time, these five volcanoes created thinner layers of lava, spreading on top of older layers, continuing to build until a volcano crater emerged out of the ocean — to form the Big Island of Hawaii. Underwater eruptions in Loihi, at the southern tip of the Hawaii Islands, would ultimately rupture the sea floor and create a new landmass. From Hawaii to Niihau, the Hawaiian Volcanic Islands display dramatic histories of eruptions, landslides, and erosion. While the islands of Kauai and Niihau go back five million years, Hawaii Islands volcanoes are newer on the list.    Show Source Texts

Perhaps someday, so too will be Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Ni ihau, and the volcanoes of the Kohala Islands. The volcano of Kilauea, located on Hawai i Island, is the most active volcano on Earth today, having erupted 60 times since 1840. Origins of Hawaiian IslandsThe Hawaiian islands are the summits of giant volcanoes formed from the untold number of erupting magmatic lava flows over the course of several million years; some tower over 30,000 feet from the seafloor. One day, when the magma inside a hotspot reaches up toward the surface, a drop of lava will break through a wave, spawning another, hopefully just as gorgeous, island.    Show Source Texts

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Lauren Forcella

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About Lauren Forcella

Painting nature is my way of being devotional to this beautiful planet we’ve been born to. I strive to bring onto the canvas the livingness, aliveness, and wildness of this wonderland we call Earth… Read More

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