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Information on Mauna Loa

    Legend of Mauna Loa

    • The Hawaiian legend says that two Goddesses--Pele, goddess of volcanoes, and her older sister Na-maka-o-kaha'I--were fighting. Every time Pele would dig into the Earth to make fire and a new home, her sister would flood it with water from the sea. Pele eventually set up on Mauna Loa, where the mountain stood so tall her sister could no longer send water to put out her fire.


    • The total height of Mauna Loa reaches only 13,680 feet above sea level, according to Extreme Science. However, from the ocean floor, this volcano actually stretches taller than even Mount Everest, with a summit of 56,000 feet. This massive volcano composes almost 85 percent of the combined Hawaiian islands.


    • At the summit of Mauna Loa lies a caldera--the collapsed basin of the volcano--named Moku`aweoweo. The literal translation, "fish section," comes from "Moku," meaning coastal land section and "aweoweo," which stands for a type of red Hawaiian fish. The caldera collapsed between 600 and 750 years ago, leaving a hole about 600 feet deep and over 16 feet wide.

    Volcanic Eruptions

    • As a gigantic, basaltic shield volcano, Mauna Loa's high number of eruptions makes it one of the most active volcanoes on the Earth. Mauna Loa has erupted over 30 times since its first documented eruption in 1843. Characteristics of shield volcanoes include an indiscreet eruption that produces lava through fissures in the crust. The lava cools as it touches water. Repeated eruptions build up and the mass grows, becoming a mountain. The name "shield volcano" comes from the shape generated by lava flows, which is longer than it is tall.


    • The lava flows themselves produce the largest problem with this volatile volcano. Due to the high number of eruptions, as well as the length and fluidity of the lava flow, Mauna Loa presents hazards to the people living on the volcano's lower slopes. In addition to the lava flows, landslides offer another problem to consider. Another concern that increases the risk from Mauna Loa, according to the University of Hawaii, comes from indifference on the part of government organizations and modern populations.

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