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The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and undersea seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 2,400 kilometers from the island of Hawaiʻi in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll.
The Hawaiian Islands are the exposed peaks of a great undersea mountain range known as the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain, formed by volcanic activity over a hotspot in the Earth's mantle. The islands are about 3,000 km from the nearest continent.
Captain James Cook visited the islands on January 18, 1778 and named them the "Sandwich Islands" in honor of John Montagu. This name was in use until the 1840s.
Geology Hawaiʻi island (the Big Island) is the biggest and youngest island in the chain, built from five volcanoes. Mauna Loa, taking up over half of the Big Island, is the largest shield volcano on the Earth. The measurement from sea level to summit is more than 2.5 miles (4 km), from sea level to sea floor about 3.1 miles (5 km)
Earthquakes The Hawaiian Islands have many earthquakes, generally caused by volcanic activity. From 1833 to 1896, approximately 4 or 5 earthquakes per year. Earthquakes are monitored by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory run by the USGS.
Tsunamis The Hawaiian Islands are subject to tsunamis, great waves that strike the shore. Tsunamis are most often caused by earthquakes somewhere in the Pacific. The waves produced by the earthquakes travel at speeds of 400–500 miles per hour (600–800 km/h) and can affect coastal regions thousands of miles (kilometers) away
Ecology Human contact, first by Polynesians, introduce new trees, plants and animals. As a result, many species which depend on forest habitats and food went extinct.
National Monument On June 15, 2006, President George W. Bush issued a public proclamation creating Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906. The Monument encompasses the northwestern Hawaiian Islands and surrounding waters, forming the largest marine wildlife reserve in the world.
Climate The climate of the Hawaiian Islands is tropical but it experiences many different climates, depending on altitude and weather. Coastal areas in general and especially the south and west flanks or leeward sides, tend to be drier. In general, the lowlands of Hawaiian Islands receive most of their precipitation during the winter months (October to April). Drier conditions generally prevail from May to September. The tropical storms, and occasional hurricanes, tend to occur from July through November.
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