Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea
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Phone (808) 935-6268
Address Mauna Kea Access Rd, Hilo, HI 96720
Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano on the island of Hawaii. Standing 4,205 m (13,796 ft) above sea level, its peak is the highest point in the U.S. state of Hawaii.

• General: Educational • General: History

Because the Hawaiian Islands slope so deep into the sea, Mauna Kea is exceptionally prominent, with a dry prominence calculated at 9,330 m (30,610 ft). It is cupped by the deep Hawaiian Trough, which has led some authorities to call it the tallest (as opposed to highest) mountain in the world, as measured from base to peak. Base remains loosely defined, which has resulted in numbers ranging from 9,966 m (32,696 ft) (roughly to the deepest point on the Hawaiian Trough) to 17,205 m (56,447 ft) (to the root of the mountain deep underground).

On each of these, other mountains stake rivaling claims, for example, Mount Lamlam claiming higher climb from base (11,528 m (37,820 ft), starting from Challenger Deep), and all of the Himalayan Mountains claiming tremendously deep roots. Despite this, on the well-defined measure of prominence, it is at least the second most prominent mountain in the world, and the most prominent not to be permitted whole continents in its foothills.

Mauna Kea is about one million years old, and thus hundreds of thousands of years ago it passed the most active shield stage of life. In its current post-shield state, its lava is more viscous, resulting in a steeper profile. Late volcanism has also given it a much smoother appearance than its neighboring volcanoes: contributing factors include the construction of cinder cones, the decentralization of its rift zones, the glaciation on its peak, and the weathering effects of the prevailing trade winds. Mauna Kea last erupted 4,600 years ago. According to the USGS, as of January 2012, the Volcanic Alert Level is "Normal".

In Hawaiian mythology, the peaks of the island of Hawaii are sacred, and Mauna Kea (which means "white mountain" in Hawaiian) is one of the most sacred. An ancient law allowed only high-ranking tribal chiefs to visit its peak. Ancient Hawaiians living on the slopes of Mauna Kea relied on its extensive forests for food, and quarried the dense volcano-glacial basalts on its flanks for tool production.

When Europeans arrived in the late 18th century, settlers introduced cattle, sheep and game animals, many of which became feral and began to damage the mountain's ecology. Mauna Kea can be ecologically divided into three sections: an alpine climate at its summit, a Sophora chrysophylla–Myoporum sandwicense (or mamane–naio) forest on its flanks and an Acacia koa–Metrosideros polymorpha (or koa–'ohi'a) forest, now mostly cleared by the former sugar industry, at its base. In recent years, concern over the vulnerability of the native species has led to court cases that have forced the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources to eradicate all feral species on the mountain.

With its high altitude, dry environment, and stable airflow, Mauna Kea's summit is one of the best sites in the world for astronomical observation, and one of the most controversial. Since the creation of an access road in 1964, thirteen telescopes funded by eleven countries have been constructed at the summit. The Mauna Kea Observatories are used for scientific research across the electromagnetic spectrum from visible light to radio, and comprise one of the world's largest telescope facilities of their type.

In April 2013, the Thirty Meter Telescope project was approved, and will be the largest telescope ever built. Their construction on a "sacred landscape", replete with endangered species and ongoing cultural practices, continues to be a topic of debate and protest. Studies are under way to determine their effect on the summit ecology, particularly on the rare Wekiu bug. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1972.

Source: Wikipedia