Monday, February 7, 2011

Big Island's South Point: Dat's It



South Point on the Big Island of Hawaii is the tip of the 1,600-mile long Hawaiian Archipelago (including the 300 miles of the principal island chain), the last bit of land for thousands of miles until islands specks appear in the South Pacific. Canoe ladders hang on the cliff near the point to take advantage of good fishing, but beware the Halaea Current, named for a chief whose canoe was swept south over the horizon and never seen again.

The slope is gradual at the actual south point, as Mauna Loa's south rift zone submerges and continues another 20,000 feet under water to the base of the earth's most-massive mountain. In perhaps another 10,000 years South Point will no longer be the most southerly land in Hawaii. The geophysical conditions at South Point creates a near-constant breeze, which has generated electricity there for more than two decades.

About 20 miles to the southeast another volcano, Loihi, is building as fresh lava roils into the cold ocean. At present, Loihi is about 15,000 feet tall and needs another 3,000 feet of eruption to see daylight.