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Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Quarter

Have you ever seen a conveyor belt?  It’s like a wide rubber band on rollers.  It’s used to move things or even people along a path.

Well, did you know that the chain of Hawaiian islands is like a big conveyor belt?  That long row of islands didn’t just pop up out of the sea at once.  They were all created from the same “hot spot” under the ocean floor.  A hot spot is a place deep underground so hot that rocks melt!

As the island chain moved northwest like a slow-motion conveyor belt, the hot spot’s magma burst through, becoming lava.  The ocean water cooled and hardened the lava, forming underwater hills, then mountains, then volcanic islands.  But the land kept moving, forming new volcanoes and leaving the old ones to die out.

That means the islands farthest north in the Hawaiian chain are the oldest islands, whose volcanoes have been extinct the longest.  The big island of Hawai’i is the youngest island with the most active volcanoes.  Of its five volcanoes, one is extinct (will never erupt again), one is dormant (stopped erupting only thousands of years ago), and the other three are active, though Hualalai last erupted in 1801.

That makes me wonder:  If the conveyor belt is still moving, could there be another island forming to the southeast of Hawai’i right now?

The answer is “yes”!  Even though there is a new active volcano under the sea (more than half a mile down), it already has a name:  Lo’ihi. How long will it take Lo’ihi to break through the waves and become an island?  Oh, about 250,000 years.  (Like I said, this conveyor belt is SLOW!)

But even though you won’t be around to see the newest volcano, you can still enjoy the other volcanoes at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.  And if you can’t make it to Hawai’i, just keep your eye out for this quarter!  It features Mount Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano, in full eruption!

Read more on the Hawai’I Volcanoes National Park quarter page.

Check out the original article here.


Image/Copy: U.S. Mint

Written by Robert L. Wilson

September 14, 2012 at 8:14 am

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