The Life of the Land Part 2 of 7

Contributed by Tommy Larson

As you are reading this, an island is forming 3,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean 30 miles south of the Big Island. Three thousand feet may seem deep, but it is already 15,000 feet above the ocean floor. All Hawaiian Islands are of volcanic origin, meaning we are all on either an extinct (no longer active), dormant (not active at this time), or active volcano.

Hawaiian volcanoes have tapped a very hot pool of magma, or molten rock deep in the Earth, meaning the lava which formed our islands was at a high enough temperature that it flowed very easily. The early Hawaiians were so attuned to their natural environment that they even had names for different kinds of lava. Modern scientists use these names today: A`a is the term for rough jagged lava and Pahoehoe for the smooth, ropy type.

Molokai averages 10 miles wide by 38 miles long. It was formed by two major volcanoes. One, called West Molokai, emerged from the sea first, building layer upon layer. Later, to the east, a second larger volcanic area emerged. As this second area continued to erupt it spread out, finally overlapping to the earlier flow in the west. The broad Ho`olehua plain is the result. Both east and west Molokai were rift type volcanoes, meaning there were several large craters and many vents or smaller craters. Kamakou, the highest point on our island home, is one of several high points on the rim of what was probably the main caldera of the east Molokai rift zone.

After the Sun, the second most important sustainer of life on this planet is the combination of one oxygen molecule and two hydrogen molecules, H20. Water falls to the earth, enriching our land and shaping it. The great valleys of our north and northeast shores, such as Waikolu, Pelekunu, Wailau, and Halawa are magnificent examples of this shaping. Heavy rainfalls have found their way to the sea and in doing so, from tiny rivulets to major streams, formed these great valleys. As the powers of sculpturing by wind, rain, and sea were proceeding, the magma pool beneath made one last effort to contribute. This small volcano, Kahauko Crater, formed one of the world’s most poignant and inspiring pieces of land, historically and naturally, on Earth – Kalaupapa.

As you travel around our island home, notice Puu Luahine (Red Hill), Kualapu`u, or Kaiaka Rock. These, with other hills, were at one time live volcanic vents and cinder cones pouring out lava and shooting cinders hundreds of feet up. Notice the road cuts through lava flows such as the cut just north of the Manawainui Bridge or the lava dikes (walls or ridges) along the road above Mahana. Allow your mind to rest from the affairs of this life and notice the marvelous world around us. It has many wonderful and helpful lessons to teach us if we will be still and listen.


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