Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea


Big Island

Mauna Kea means “Mountain of the Deity Wakea” or “White Mountain”. It is one of the major 5 shield volcanoes that creates the Hawaiian Islands. The others in this chain are Kohala, Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea. It is inactive. It is often called “White Mountain” because of it being consistently covered with snow during winter. Its peak reaches 13,803 feet above sea level but looms 33,476 feet above the ocean floor making it the world’s tallest mountain by that measurement if you disclude the ocean. Doing so, makes it taller than Mount Everest.
Mauna Kea is home to the infamous and highest of cinder cones known as Pu’u Wekiu or Pu’u o Kukahau’ula, which is the highest point in the state. This volcano is in the post-shield stage of volcanic evolution transitioning from the shield stage roughly 250,000 years ago. During its shield stage it is theoreticized to have appeared similar to Mauna Loa as a smooth shield volcano with a large summit caldera. The summit was entirely covered by a massive ice cap during the Pleistocene ice ages and displays evidence of four periods of glaciation over the last 200,000 years that ended around 11,000 years ago with the last glaciation. Its dense rock at its summit, called the “Mauna Kea Adz Quarry” is believed to have formed when lava erupted under a glacier. Towards its top is the seventh highest lake in the U.S. called “Lake Waiau”. Also at the summit is a celestial observatory that has been considered the best astronomical site in the world since it resides above 40% of the Earth’s atmosphere and 90% of the water vapor allowing for an exceptional clear view of the night sky. Local legends place Mauna Kea as the home of the snow Goddess “Poliahu” and many other deities making it an important mecca site for prayer, burials, consecration of children, and traditional celestial observations.


Big Island

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