Hawaii is called the Rainbow State or the Aloha State and is the only state in the union that consists entirely of islands. It is also one of the most unique states as far as environment, natural beauty, and culture are concerned. This week we explore some interesting facts about the Hawaiian Islands.
Photograph by Megan Nixon.
The word “aloha” has several meanings.
As I learned as a child, aloha means both hello and goodbye, but this only scratches the surface of the meaning of this word. It has important meaning in Hawaiian culture and, as I stated above, has several meanings. It also stands for love, affection, peace, compassion, and mercy, as well as a special state of being for the Hawaiian people.
The Hawaiian alphabet has fewer letters than the English alphabet.
The Hawaiian alphabet was developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to help people understand the Hawaiian language and be able to pronounce it properly. This alphabet has all five traditional vowels (A, E, I, O, U) as well as the consonants H, K, L, M, N, P, and W. An apostrophe is also included as an accent mark.
There is a movement to make Hawaii its own country again.
Called the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, the grassroots political and cultural campaign is attempting to reestablish the independent nation of Hawaii, as well as preserving its culture, language, and religion. The movement began with other social movements in the sixties and seventies, but really gained traction in the eighties. In 1993, Congress officially apologized for the annexation of the islands and admitted that it was illegal, which was a victory for the movement, but activists continue to fight for their freedom.
The islands have interesting volcanoes.
Most volcanoes in Hawaii are located on the Big Island. Among the interesting volcanoes is Mauna Loa, considered one of the largest volcanoes in the world when measured from its submarine base. Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet and is usually doing something. Almost all of those stock footage videos of lava flowing or erupting came from Kilauea.
Snow can fall in Hawaii.
Hawaii is famous for being a tropical paradise, but there is a whole host of weather phenomena that occurs here. Among them is snow, though it only occurs above 10,000 feet on the volcanoes Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and Haleakala. Hawaiian snowfall comes about once a year between December and February, though Mauna Kea sometimes gets it in the summertime. Unfortunately, climate change could eventually put a stop to Hawaiian snow.
The weather is different depending on what part of the islands you are on.
Volcanic mountains down the center of the islands cause varying ecosystems in Hawaii. You can find anything from rainforests to deserts to alpine environments, all within only a few miles of each other. Rain mostly falls on the northeast side of the islands thanks to the mountains, so if you get tired of cloudy skies, just travel to the other side and you’ll be fine.
The Big Island isn’t the only location in Hawaii with active volcanoes.
You can also find one on Maui. Though it doesn’t erupt often, the Haleakala volcano is considered active. The most recent eruption took place somewhere between 400 and 600 years ago. At least ten different eruptions have occurred in the last 1,000 years. Could we see another eruption from this isolated island volcano? Yes, absolutely!
One of the rainiest spots in the world is in Hawaii.
Mount Waialeale is considered one of the wettest places in the world, though there are possibly some wetter places in the Hawaiian Islands. This 5,000 foot peak is located on the island of Kauai, receiving up to 500 inches of rainfall every year.
The Hawaiian Islands have only been occupied by humans a short time.
The first people to arrive were Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands somewhere between 400 and 1100 CE. These first settlers must’ve been pretty brave, too. They traveled over 2,000 miles by canoe on the open ocean to find a random chain of islands somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. That takes some guts!
None of Hawaii’s most famous agricultural exports are native.
A lot of people think of coffee, pineapples, and sugar cane when thinking of Hawaiian crops. None of these are native to the islands. Coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia. Sugar cane originates from Southeast Asia, India, and New Guinea. As for pineapples, they are a native plant of Brazil.
I have only been to Hawaii once. During that visit, I had a rather unusual experience at an ancient heiau that would take to long to explain here. Just know I was invited to return by rather bizarre circumstances. Someday I will visit again, and when I do, I will go to the Big Island this time and see some volcanoes. It should be pretty awesome!
Nation of Hawaii- www.nationofhawaii.org
United States Geological Survey- www.usgs.gov
Global Volcanism Program- www.volcano.si.edu
Sea Paradise- www.seaparadise.com
The Hawaiian Islands- www.gohawaii.com
Smithsonian Magazine- www.smithsonianmag.com
Agricultural Marketing Resource Center- www.agmrc.org
National Coffee Association- www.ncausa.org