Volcanoes of Hawai’i

The two volcanoes that dominate the island of Hawai’i are Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

Volcanoes are the genesis of the largest island in the Hawaiian Island chain and volcanoes continue to add to the acreage of the younger island in the chain.

The volcano Mauna Loa (meaning Long Mountain) makes up about 50% of the total land mass of the Big Island. And from it’s base on the sea floor to it’s peak, it’s considered the tallest mountain in the world, about 2,972 feet taller than Mt. Everest.

Since 1843 (when records were first kept) Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times. One eruption in 1863 caused a 7.9 earthquake, the largest quake ever recorded in Hawaii.

Perhaps because of it’s vastness, Mauna Loa does not appear as prominent as it’s northern cousin, Mauna Kea. Mauna Loa’s peak appears as a tall rounded hill unlike the tall pointed alpine peak of the Alps which tends to be our quintessential version of a mountain.

At 13,803, Mauna Kea, meaning White Mountain, is the highest mountain, above sea level, in the Hawaiian Island chain. It’s snow covered peak is visible, when not shrouded in clouds, can be seen from many points in the northern parts of the island.

Both volcanoes were on my “to sketch” list and I sketched them with broad pen brush strokes, attempting to capture the overall form, rather than the details.

I find when I’m field sketching with a brush pen I am more likely to sketch because I can work quickly, leaving more time in the day for more sketches. This was my approach with the two sketches of Mauna Loa and Kea.


Mauna Loa, the Long Mountain

I look forward to seeing and sketching the world’s largest volcano on the planet earth, Mauna Loa, the Long Mountain.

The volcano is so big, and such a major part of the island of Hawaii, that is tough to get a firm perspective of the mountain, so I was going to have to get a little creative with my viewpoints on how to capture the mountain in sketch.

I before I stand before the mighty mountain, pencil and sketchbook in hand, I wanted to do a pre trip sketch to help put the scale of Mauna Loa into perspective.

A volcano I had visited in recent memory was Mount Lassen. This was a volcano that had erupted sometime ago (in May of 1917) but it was clear to see in quite easy to sketch. I was looking forward to comparing both of these volcanoes and how they were alike and different.

A brush pen sketch of Lassen Peak from October 2020.
A spread on the different types of volcanoes at Lassen National Park. Mauna Loa is a shield volcano, which is a volcano that is a broad dome with gentle slopes extending to the ocean floor.

For my spread about Mauna Loa, I based of my sketch on part of a map I picked up at REI. The map was produced by Franko Maps and is titled “Hawaii Adventure Guide”.

The specs of Mauna Loa are incredible. It’s the largest active volcano in the world. It rises 13,100 feet above sea level. But if you look at the base of the seafloor where Mauna Loa rises, it is a 32,000 ft making it the largest mountain on planet Earth. That is almost 3,000 feet taller than Everest. Mauna Loa extends for 74 miles and covers half of the island of Hawai’i and it’s area adds up to about 85% of the area of all the other Hawaiian Island combines.

One of Mauna Loa’s eruptions produced the largest earthquake in Hawaiian history.

Mauna Loa is a very active volcano having erupted 33 times in recorded geologic history. It’s last eruption was in 1984, which is a extremely short time ago on the geological timeline. That eruption came within seven miles of Hilo.

Will Mauna Loa erupt again? It is not a question of “if” but “when”.