Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Haleakalā, East Maui Volcano|
Looking into Haleakalā
|Elevation:||10,023 ft (3,055 m)|
|Latitude:||20° 42′ 47.9″ N|
|Longitude:||156° 15′ 27.3″ W|
|Location:||Maui, Hawaii, USA|
|Age of rock:||< 1.1 Myr|
|Easiest route:||paved highway|
Early Hawaiians applied the name Haleakalā ("house of the sun") to the summit area only, most likely due to the fact that 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 Polynesian 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. It has been called the largest extinct volcanic crater in the world, but this is not at all accurate. See for example Long Valley Caldera in California. Macdonald, Abbott, & Peterson (1983, p. 391) 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 stricly speaking it is not of volcanic origin, beyond the fact that it exists in a volcanic mountain.
East Maui Volcano last erupted around 1790, so the volcano certainly cannot be described as extinct. Haleakalā "crater" is thought to be the result of erosion by streams that cut the two large gaps — Ko‘olau on the north side and Kaupō on the south — to either side of the depression.
Surrounding and including the "crater" is Haleakala National Park, a 28,655 acre (115.963 km²) park of which 19,270 acres (77.983 km²) are wilderness. The park includes the summit depression, Kipahulu Valley on the southeast, and ‘Ohe‘o 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 Halemau‘u Trail. The temperature near the top 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.
Because of the remarkable clarity, dryness, and stillness of the air, and its location above one-third of the atmosphere, 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 obervational 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, the University of Hawaii, The Smithsonian Institution, the Air Force, the 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, satellites, rockets) rather than celestial objects. The astronomers on Haleakala are concerned about increasing light pollution as Maui's population grows.
A well traveled, modern road leads all the way to the top of this spectacular mountain. There is an entrance fee to the summit and Kipahulu area.
- Macdonald, Gordon A., Agatin T. Abbott, and Frank L. Peterson. 1983. Volcanoes in the Sea. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu. 517 pp.
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