The Hawaiian Islands form a chain of volcanic islands that range from Hawaii (the Big Island) in the east, to Niʻihau in the west. They’re found in the middle of the pacific plate.

If you could drain the sea away, you would see that the islands actually extend to a much larger chain of submerged sea mounts, which were once older islands. These are now eroded below the sea level, known at the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain

Image Credit: map NASA, annotation Dougal Jerram

Most of the active volcanic events are occurring on the Big Island of Hawaii. These are centred around Kilauea ,Pu‘U ‘Ō‘Ō and along the East Rift Zone (see map). There are also some eruptions that go on underwater.

There are two big shield volcanoes called Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, which have some large telescopes on them to look into space.

Image Credit: Dougal Jerram, map data USGS

Image Credit: Dougal Jerram

Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island is one of the most active in the world and often has spectacular fissure eruptions, like in this video from 2018.

Video Credit: USGS

Hawaii is home to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory which monitors the active volcanoes in Hawaii. The observatory assesses their hazards, issues warnings and updates when eruptions are happening, and carries out scientific work to understand how volcanoes work.

The Hawaii Hot Spot Chain
Tanno and Iguda have hopped from island to island along the Hawaii chain, and it turns out the islands get older as you go further from the Big Island.

The cool video form the Stile Education YouTube channel (check them out), and the USGS map and cross section show how the islands form a chain as the Pacific plate moves over the Hawaii Hot Spot/Plume….

Video Credit: check out the Stile Education You Tube Channel Here
Image Credit: USGS

The eruptions in 2018 caused the main crater to collapse as the magma drained (think back to your caldera experiment…). See the before and after below – WOW!

Image Credit USGS
Image Credit: USGS

The volume of the new inner collapse crater is now about 885 million cubic metres. As you can see it sank down a height similar to the Empire State Building in New York!


Make your own lava lamp. The hot spot that drives the Hawaiian volcanoes is a bit like a lava lamp with a hot plume of material rising within the mantle. There are some cool experiments out there to make your own examples of a lava lamp. This one is simple and uses ingredients you can find at home:

  • You will need:
    1) Vegetable oil.
    2) Vinegar (clear).
    3) Food colouring.
    4) Baking soda and water.
    5) A glass or similar container.
  • Place the vegetable oil into the glass (fill about half full).
  • Mix your clear vinegar with a few drops of food colouring (Tanno chose red for magma).
  • Mix some baking soda with water – this will be the agent that will react with the vinegar to give off gas bubbles to drive the lava lamp.
  • Pour into the glass and you should get a reaction of the soda with the vinegar and it will bubble vigorously. As it settles a little, you will get a lava lamp effect.
  • You can also place a light behind it when you run the experiment to get a cool lamp effect (maybe even dim the room lights).
  • You can try some different combinations (colours) and concentrations of soda to see how it affects the experiment.

See this example video posted on YouTube by Tyler from Canada (who posts some great little videos). In this example you will see that the colour drops are added after the vinegar is poured in, you can do it either way. Lets make some fun lamps….

You can go to the previous Volcanoes secret pages by clicking the places below.

StromboliVesuvius/PompeiiErta Ale
Mount St HelensSarychevMount Fuji