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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 16, 2001

Hawaiian chain mostly under sea

 •  Will global warming put Waikiki under water?

By John Griffin

Like the invisible yet real lines between people and places, you don't see most of Hawai'i. Beyond the eight main islands, the Hawaiian chain is mostly undersea mountains stretching 1,500 miles northwest toward Japan. The mid-ocean archipelago sits atop what's called the Pacific Plate. That vast part of the Earth's crust drifts toward Asia at the rate of about 4 inches a year

Hawai'i's islands, including those under the ocean, were formed over millions of years by a "hot spot," a hole in this tectonic plate. It allows molten lava from deep in the Earth to flow upwards. The resulting undersea volcanoes build up to become islands. As the 21st century began, that stationary hot spot was still feeding eruptions on the southernmost island called Hawai'i and a new submarine volcano called Lo'ihi 15 miles to the south. In several thousand years, Lo'ihi may become the next Hawaiian Island. Others could follow.

If the Earth's crust keeps moving as it has for millions more years, the islands we call Hawai'i today will finally disappear below the waves far to the west where the Pacific Plate slides under another holding part of Asia — taking with them Waikiki hotels, freeways,

Diamond Head, and the remains of those who have lived here. As today's Hawai'i will then become part of the deeper world, the

hot spot should be building new islands for new people.