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Geography & Geology
(Source: State of Hawai’i)

Hawai’i is a string of 137 islands encompassing a land area of 6,423.4 square miles in the north central Pacific Ocean. Geographic coordinates for Honolulu are 21:18:25 North Latitude, 157:51:30 West Longitude. The Hawaiian Islands have 750 total miles (1207 km) of coastline.

Hawai’i is the most geographically isolated population center on earth. It is 2,000 miles from the Marshall Islands, 2,390 miles from California, 2,500 miles from Tahiti, 3,850 miles from Japan, 4,900 miles from China and 5,280 miles from the Philippines.

Island Age and Size

Stretching from northwest to southeast (and from oldest to youngest), the major islands of Hawai’i are: Ni’ihau, Kaua’i, O’ahu, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Kaho’olawe, Maui and Hawai’i. Kaua’i is estimated to be about 5 million years old; Hawai’i is less than 1 million years old. From largest to smallest the islands are Hawai’i , Maui, O’ahu, Kaua’i, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe.

Lo’ihi, a new island being formed 20 miles (32km) offshore of the Big Island of Hawai’i, is about 3,000 feet (915m) below sea level and is expected rise above the water in approximately 60,000 years.

The dormant volcano Mauna Kea (on the Big Island) can be considered the tallest mountain in the world, if measured from its base in the Hawaiian Trough (3,280 fathoms) to its summit (13,796 feet). In total, it reaches a height of 33,476 feet.
Plants & Animals

More than 2,500 species of native plants and a large number of introduced plants are found in the Hawaiian Islands, including many varieties of shrubs, trees, grasses and flowering plants.

The only mammals native to the Islands are the hoary bat, the Hawaiian monk seal, and the Polynesian rat, and there are very few predators. Hawai’i’s ecosystem supports a variety of bird and plant life, but many species (such as the Hawaiian goose, or nene) are endangered.

The state’s largest mammals are the humpback whales that migrate to warm Hawaiian waters every year to mate and calve. You can see them from the shore or on a whale-watching cruise during the winter months of December through April. These magnificent animals can grow to be as big as a school bus.

Other wondrous marine animals in Hawai’i include the Hawksbill Sea Turtle, the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, and Hawai’i’s fragile coral reefs.

Hawai’i’s ocean hosts some of the most exotic (and delicious) fish in the world. More than 650 species of fish live in Hawaiian waters. Some of the tastiest fish are various types of tuna (such as ‘ahi), open-ocean selections such as mahimahi and ono, and bottomfish such as onaga and ‘opakapaka.

Language

The state’s two official languages are Hawaiian and English. The melodious Hawaiian language is a Polynesian dialect and has only 12 letters in its alphabet: vowels a, e, i, o, u and consonants h, k, l, m, n, p and w. Vowel pronunciation is as follows:

Vowel Pronunciation
a ah
e ay
i ee
o oh
u oo

When a “w” is immediately preceded by a vowel that begins a word (such as ‘Ewa), it is pronounced as a “v.” A “w” can also sometimes be pronounced as a “v” if it appears in the middle or toward the end of a word (such as in ka’awa).

To clarify pronunciation in Hawaiian words, several diacritical marks are used. The glottal stop (called an ‘okina) is written as an open single quote mark ( ‘ ) and signifies a brief pause between letters (such as in Ka’ahumanu). The macron (called a kahako) is a solid line written over the top of a letter and signifies an extended vowel sound (such as in Waikiki; the last two “i”s would each be pronounced as “eee” instead of “ee”).
Science and Technology
Mauna Kea has 13 major astronomical facilities representing the cooperation of 10 countries. The Subaru Telescope Facility represents a new class of highly accurate, revolutionary telescopes. The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii at Keahole Point promotes ocean-related research, education and commercial activities using deep-ocean water technology.

Average temperature:
Hilo 71.2° F
Kailua-Kona 73.1° F
Mauna Kea Summit 31 to 43° F

Average annual rainfall:
131 inches at Hilo Airport
10 inches near Kawaihae (Kona Coast)

Population (1998): 143,135
Main cities and towns (1990):
Hilo 37,808
Kailua-Kona 9,126
Waimea 5,972

Government

The island of Hawai’i is governed by the County of Hawai’i. The county is operated by a mayor, a nine-member county council and the county’s departments and agencies.

Agriculture

Important products are beef, Kona coffee, macadamia nuts, papaya and tropical flowers such as orchids and anthuriums. Sugarcane production ended in 1996. There are efforts to convert the use of these lands to forestry and to expand diversified agriculture.

State Flag

The state flag has eight stripes representing the Hawaiian archipelago’s major islands: Ni’ihau, Kaua’i, O’ahu, Maui, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Kaho’olawe and Hawai’i. The colors are red, white and blue. From top to bottom on the flag the stripes are, in order, white, red, blue, white, red, blue, white, red. The upper left corner closely resembles the Union Jack of Great Britain. Designed for King Kamehameha I in the early 1800s, this resemblance symbolizes King Kamehameha’s friendship with the British.

State Motto

“Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina i ka pono”
The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. King Kamehameha III is said to have uttered these words on July 31, 1843, when the Hawaiian flag was once more raised after a brief usurpation of authority by a British admiral.

State Seal

The state seal has a heraldic shield in the center, a figure of King Kamehameha I on its right side and the Goddess of Liberty holding the Hawaiian flag on the left side. Below the shield is the Phoenix surrounded by taro leaves, banana foliage, and sprays of maidenhair fern. With color added, the seal becomes the State Coat of Arms.
 

State Bird

Nene (Hawaiian goose; Branta sandvicensis). The nene (“nay-nay”) is a variety of goose that lives and breeds on land. Nene are endangered, despite a restoration project that began in the late 1940s. They are protected by law.

State Marine Mammal

The humpback whale, which migrates annually from Alaska to Hawaiian waters to mate and calve (generally during the months of December through April).

Unofficial State Fish

The humuhumunukunukuapua‘a (pronounced Hoo-moo-hoo-moo noo-koo-noo-koo ahh poo-ah-ah) is a Hawaiian Triggerfish.

 

State Flower

Yellow hibiscus (pua ma’o hau hele; Hibiscus brackenridgei)

 

 

State Tree

Kukui (candlenut; Aleurites moluccana), a plant species introduced from Polynesia. Ancient Hawaiians used the nuts of this tree for oil, medicine and more. Kukui oil is still used to soothe dry skin and other dermatological ailments.

 

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