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Hualālai stands at 8,271 ft (2,521 m) with a prominence of 3,071 ft (936 m). It is the westernmost of the five major volcanoes which form the island of Hawaiʻi. Being in the post-shield stage of development, Hualālai is overall much rougher in shape and structure than the more youthful Mauna Loa and Kīlauea. Hualālai’s structure is denoted by three rift zones: a well-developed one approximately 50° to the northwest, a moderately developed one to the southeast, and a poorly developed one trending northwards about 3 mi (5 km) east of the summit. There are over 100 cinder and spatter cones arranged along these rift zones. Hualālai has no summit caldera, although there is a collapse crater about 0.3 mi (0.48 km) across atop a small lava shield. Much of the southern slope (above the modern town of Kailua-Kona) consists of lava flows covered by a layer of volcanic ash from 10 to 100 cm (4 to 39 in) thick.  In comparison with the other volcanoes of the island of Hawaiʻi, it is the third-tallest, third-youngest, third-most active, and second-smallest, making up just 7% of the island.

A major subfeature of Hualālai is Puʻu Waʻawaʻa, Hawaiian for “many-furrowed hill”, a volcanic cone standing 372 m (1,220 ft) tall and measuring over 1.6 km (1 mi) in diameter. It extends for 9 km (6 mi), and has a prominence of 275 m (902 ft), north of the summit at 19°46′15″N 155°49′56″W. The cone is constructed of trachyte, a type of volcanic lava that exists at no other volcano on Hawaiʻi. Trachyte flows move more slowly than the typically “runny” Hawaiian lavas, a characteristic caused by its high (over 62%) silica composition (typical basalt is only 50% silica). Geologists hypothesize that Puʻu Waʻawaʻa originally formed during a pumice eruption a little over 100,000 years ago, and has continued to build itself since then, with at least three distinct trachyte flows recognized. The eruptions, although partially covered by flows from Hualālai and Mauna Loa, have built a distinctive structure known as the Puʻu Anahulu ridge.

The westward-facing flank of Hualālai forms a large underwater slump known as the North Kona slump. An area of about 1,000 km2 (390 sq mi), the slump consists of an intricate formation of beaches and scarps 2,000 to 4,500 m (6,600 to 14,800 ft) below the waterline. This area was explored more closely in a 2001 joint Japan-United States project to explore the volcano’s flanks, utilizing the remotely operated vehicle ROV Kaikō. Data collected showed that the lava flows there originated in shallow water 500 to 1,000 m (1,600 to 3,300 ft) deep, and that unlike similar slumps at other volcanoes, the slump at Hualālai formed gradually.

Hualālai is a known source for xenoliths, rock from the Earth’s mantle that have been brought up in lava flows. Many prehistoric deposits, as well as those from the 1801 event, contain xenoliths of large size and abundant quantity.

Mountain History

KilaueaKohalaMauna LoaMauna Kea


Hualālai is the westernmost of the five volcanoes making up Hawaiʻi island

Lava attributed to a shield-stage Hualālai has been found just offshore of the volcano’s northwest rift zone. Tholeiitic basalt, indicative of the submarine subphase of the volcano’s construction, has been found in wells driven into the volcano at a depth of 75 ft (23 m). These lavas persisted until an estimated 130,000 years ago. Hualālai entered the post-shield stage, the stage it is presently in, about 100,000 years ago. Pumice and trachyte eruptions at Puʻu Waʻawaʻa may be a sign of this change.

Geological mapping of the volcano has indicated that as much as 80% of the volcano’s surface has been topped by lava flows during the last 5,000 years, entirely composed of shield alkalic basalt. More than half of this is under 3,000 years old, and about 12% is less than 1,000 years of age. Between the years 1700 and 2016, eruptions originated from six vents; four of these lava flows poured into the sea to the west coast.

Eruption history

Hualālai is the third most active volcano making up the island of Hawaiʻi, behind Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. Although the two larger volcanos have each erupted over 150 times in the last 1,000 years, Hualālai has done so but 3 times. The recurrence of activity at the volcano seems to be every 200 to 300 years.

A recent calm period, with almost no earthquake or magmatic activity at Hualālai, has seen the growth of homes, businesses, and resorts on the mountain’s flanks. The most recent major activity at the volcano was in 1929, when an intense earthquake swarm rocked Hualālai, most likely caused by magmatic action near the volcano’s peak. Although it has been relatively placid in the recent past, Hualālai is still potentially active, and is expected to erupt again within the next 100 years.

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Originally posted 2018-08-16 09:25:20.