Next week, I head to Big Island. Or “Hawaii Island,” as we are now asked to refer to the newest island, the one on the southeastern end of the Hawaiian Island chain, the one the farthest away from me, the one formerly referred to as “Big Island,” because of its size.
As you’ve no doubt heard, all the rest of the main Hawaiian Islands could fit inside the Big—er, Hawaii—Island. It is almost twice the size of Delaware. The island takes up 4,028 square miles in size—and continues to grow. In fact, Madam Pele cranked up the heat earlier this month when a lava lake drained like someone pulled the plug in a bathtub. Pahoehoe lava is oozing down the west flank of Puu Oo crater, making, as usual, for some dramatic photography.
The island also has big mountains. Maunaloa rises 13,677 feet above sea level and is known as the world’s most massive mountain. At 13,796 feet above sea level, Maunakea is known as the world’s tallest mountain. Taller than Everest. I know what you’re thinking. But Maunakea’s true height—from top of the summit to its base below the surface of the sea is 30,077 feet. Now, that’s big.
The nickname, “Big Island,” came about as a way for people to distinguish it from the state of Hawaii. But “Big Island” can also be confusing, in that many people not familiar with our island state think “big” means “big city,” but the island with the big city—Honolulu—is Oahu, which is also home to the state’s capitol.
The use of “Hawaii Island” is actually a return to the original. Sort of like switching to “Bill” or “William” when “Little Billy” grows up. “Hawaii” is the official name of that rather large island. In geographic size, Hawaii Island also compares to Los Angeles County. But when it comes to population size, Hawaii Island only tallies 200,000 residents across those 4,028 square miles, compared to LA’s 9.8 million.
So, next week, when I visit Hawaii Island and blog about it, you’ll know exactly what island I’m writing about.