New Hawaiian island forming
September 16, 1996
Web posted at: 11:10 p.m. EDT
HONOLULU, Hawaii (CNN) -- It's a little too early to make
hotel reservations, but there's a new Hawaiian island in the
Just to the south of Hawaii Island itself, the biggest in the
chain, a violent volcano rumbles quietly beneath 3,000 feet
of the Pacific Ocean, creating the basis for land already
(15 sec/740K QuickTime movie)
Since July, thousands of earthquakes alerted scientists that
something big has been happening below the surface. They went
down to look, and found the top of the volcano was gone.
"What we saw was a collapse, so the surface of the volcano
collapsed, so it's a large crater," said Alexander Malahoff,
of the University of Hawaii.
Loihi, pronounced low-EE-Hee and meaning "long" or "tall" in
Hawaiian, juts like a spur from the side of the "Big Island"
of Hawaii, about 20 miles off the southern shore.
"When we look at Loihi, we see what the Big Island used to be
like when it was under the sea, what Oahu was like, what all
the other islands were like," Malahoff said.
Hawaii's islands formed as great sections of the ocean floor
passed over a hot spot beneath the earth's crust that
punctured the ocean floor, creating volcanoes spewing molten
rock. Old volcanoes cooled and new ones erupted for 70
million years, forming the mountain range that became the
Scientists are tracking Loihi's growth with some 90 separate
experiments. The submersible opens an exciting but nerve-
wracking view, placing its scientists just a few feet away
from an active volcano, thousands of feet beneath the sea.
"There had been landslides, and the fresh scarps where the
mountainsides had slid away were still very unstable," said
Terry Kerby of the University of Hawaii.
"We had to stay away from those because it could still start
landslides, and we didn't know how massive those might be."
Scientists plan to monitor eruptions, collapses and
earthquakes as Loihi grows. But despite its dramatic and
visible growth, Loihi will not break the ocean's surface for
about 50,000 years.
Correspondent Don Knapp contributed to this report.
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