The Hawaiian Island archipelago is the most isolated grouping of islands on earth.
The islands are really the tips of ancient volcanoes.
They owe their existence to their location over an unusual stationary “hot spot” deep within the Earth in this area.
As the Pacific tectonic plate slowly moved northwestward over that hot spot, molten rock flowed through cracks in the Earth’s surface and began to create, over a period of 70 million years, a long chain of volcanic islands.
Most of the volcanoes have been extinct for millions of years and lie below the sea.
But the youngest volcanoes, on the Big Island of Hawaii, are still active.
Kilauea, possibly the world’s most active volcano, began erupting again in 1983 and has continued to this day.
It first erupted perhaps as long as 600,000 years ago.
The Big Island is home to four other active volcanoes, including Mauna Loa, the largest on Earth.
The last time it erupted was in 1984; between then and 1843, it erupted 33 times.
The only other active Hawaiian volcano is Haleakala, on the island of Maui.
It last erupted in 1790 and probably will erupt again someday.