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East Maui Volcano

Looking into Haleakalā
Elevation 10,023 ft (3,055 m)
Prominence HP of Maui
Listing Ultra
Haleakalā is located in Hawaii
Range Hawaiian Islands
Coordinates 20°42′35″N 156°15′12″W / 20.70972°N 156.25333°W / 20.70972; -156.25333Coordinates: 20°42′35″N 156°15′12″W / 20.70972°N 156.25333°W / 20.70972; -156.25333
Topo map USGS Kilohana (HI)
Type Shield volcano
Age of rock <1.0 Ma
Volcanic arc/belt Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain
Last eruption ~18th Century
Easiest route paved highway

Haleakalā (pronounced /ˌhɑːliˌɑːkəˈlɑː/ in English and [ˈhɐleˈjɐkəˈlaː] in Hawaiian), or the East Maui Volcano, is a massive shield volcano that forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui.



Early Hawaiians applied the name Haleakalā ("house of the sun") to the summit area only, most likely because from the west side of the island, the sun could be seen rising up over the eastern side of the mountain. In Hawaiian folklore, the depression at the summit of Haleakalā was home to the grandmother of the demigod Maui. According to the legend, Maui's grandmother helped him capture the sun and force it to slow its journey across the sky in order to lengthen the day. In modern times, Haleakalā has become synonymous with the entire East Maui volcano.

From the summit one looks down into a massive depression some 11.25 km (7 mi) across, 3.2 km (2 mi) wide, and nearly 800 m (2,600 ft) deep. The surrounding walls are steep and the interior mostly barren-looking with a scattering of volcanic cones. The potentially active volcano has produced numerous eruptions in the last 30,000 years, including in the last 500 years. This volcanic activity has been along two rift zones, the southwest and east. These two rift zones together form an arc that extends from La Perouse Bay on the southwest, through the Haleakalā Crater and to Hāna, to the east. The east rift zone continues under the ocean beyond the east coast of Maui as Haleakalā Ridge, making the combined rift zones one of the longest in the Hawaiian Islands chain.

Until recently, East Maui Volcano was thought to have last erupted around 1790, based largely on comparisons of maps made during the voyages of La Perouse and George Vancouver. Recent advanced dating tests, however, have shown that the last eruption was more likely to have been in the 1600s.[1] These last flows from the southwest rift zone of Haleakalā make up the large lava deposits of the Ahihi Kina`u/La Perouse Bay area of South Maui. In addition, contrary to popular belief, Haleakalā "crater" is not volcanic in origin, nor can it accurately be called a caldera (which is formed through when the summit of a volcano collapses to form a depression). Rather, scientists believe that Haleakalā's "crater" was formed when the headwalls of two large erosional valleys merged at the summit of the volcano. These valleys formed the two large gaps — Ko‘olau on the north side and Kaupō on the south — on either side of the depression.

Macdonald, Abbott, & Peterson[2] state it this way:

Haleakala is far smaller than many volcanic craters (calderas); there is an excellent chance that it is not extinct, but only dormant; and strictly speaking it is not of volcanic origin, beyond the fact that it exists in a volcanic mountain.

National Park

Sunrise at Haleakalā
This rare species of Silversword is fragile and lives only upon the slopes of Haleakala

Surrounding and including the crater is Haleakalā National Park, a 30,183-acre (122.15 km2) park, of which 24,719 acres (100.03 km2) are wilderness.[3] The park includes the summit depression, Kipahulu Valley on the southeast, and ʻOheʻo Gulch (and pools), extending to the shoreline in the Kipahulu area. From the summit, there are two main trails leading into Haleakalā: Sliding Sands Trail and Halemauʻu Trail.

The temperature near the summit tends to vary between about 40°F (5°C) and 60°F (16°C) and, especially given the thin air and the possibility of dehydration at that elevation, the walking trails can be more challenging than one might expect. Despite this, Haleakala is popular with tourists and locals alike, who often venture to its summit, or to the visitor center just below the summit, to view the sunrise. There is no lodging, food, or gas available in the park.[4]

Astrophysical research

The Space Surveillance Systems

Because of the remarkable clarity, dryness, and stillness of the air, and its location above one-third of the atmosphere, as well as the absence of the lights of major cities, the summit of Haleakala (like Mauna Kea) is one of the most sought-after locations in the world for ground-based telescopes. As a result of the geographic importance of this observational platform, experts come from all over the world to take part in research at "Science City", an astrophysical complex operated by the U.S. Department of Defense, University of Hawaii, Smithsonian Institution, Air Force, Federal Aviation Agency, and others.

Some of the telescopes operated by the US Department of Defense are involved in researching man-made (e.g. spacecraft, monitoring satellites, rockets, and laser technology) rather than celestial objects. The program is in collaboration with defense contractors in the Maui Research and Technology Park in Kihei. The astronomers on Haleakala are concerned about increasing light pollution as Maui's population grows. Nevertheless, new telescopes are added, such as the Pan-STARRS in 2006.[5][6]



A well traveled, modern and quite curvy road leads all the way to the top of this spectacular mountain. The road is open to the public (although parts of it are restricted) and is a well-maintained two-lane highway, however it contains many blind turns and areas where the outer lane is quite close to very steep dropoffs. Local animals, including cattle, are often encountered in the roadway. The park charges a vehicle entrance fee of USD$10.00. Public transportation does not go through the park, but tour buses visit the summit regularly. Cycling and horseback riding are other popular ways to explore the park. The Island does have a unique tour via bike. There are a few organizations on Maui, which will pick people up at their hotels, take them to the top of Haleakala and outfit them with a mountain bike to glide down the entire 27 miles.

See also


  1. ^ "Youngest lava flows on East Maui probably older than A.D. 1790". United States Geological Survey. September 9, 1999. Retrieved 1999-10-04. 
  2. ^ Macdonald, Abbott, & Peterson p. 391
  3. ^ "Park History". Haleakalā National Park. National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  4. ^ Decker, Robert; Decker, Barbara (2001). Volcanoes In America's National Parks. New York: WW Norton & Company Inc.. p. 133. ISBN 9622176771. 
  5. ^ "Watching and waiting". The Economist. 2008-12-04. Retrieved 2008-12-06.  From the print edition
  6. ^ Robert Lemos (2008-11-24). "Giant Camera Tracks Asteroids". Technology Review (MIT). Retrieved 2008-12-06. 


External links

Haleakala Narrative and video of a three day journey inside the crater in 1954.



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