Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
O‘ahu is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands and most populous island in the State of Hawai‘i. Total land area is 608 mile² (1,600 km²). In greatest dimension this volcanic island is 71 km (44 mi) long and 48 km (30 mi) across. The length of the shoreline is 366 km (227 mi). The island is the result of two separate shield volcanoes: Wai‘anae and Ko‘olau, with a broad "valley" or saddle (the central O‘ahu Plain) between them. The highest point is Mt. Ka‘ala in the Waianae Range, rising to 1,225 m (4019 ft) above sea level (Macdonald, Abbott, & Peterson, 1983).
The island is home to approximately 80% of the resident population of the state and partly because of this, O‘ahu has for a long time been nicknamed "The Gathering Place". However, the term O‘ahu has no confirmed meaning in Hawaiian, other than that of the place itself (Pukui, et al., 1976). Ancient Hawaiian tradition attributes the name's origin in the legend of Hawai‘iloa, the Polynesian navigator credited with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. The story relates that he named the island after a son.
The city of Honolulu—largest city, state capital, and main deepwater marine port for the State of Hawai‘i—is located here. As a jurisdictional unit, the entire island of O‘ahu is in the City & County of Honolulu, although as a place name, Honolulu occupies only a portion of the southeast end of the island (essentially, the Honolulu District). The island extends from Ka‘ena on the west end to Makapu‘u on the east. Well-known features found on O‘ahu include Waikīkī, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Kāne‘ohe Bay, and the North Shore.
O‘ahu was apparently the first of the Hawaiian Islands sighted by the crew of HMS Resolution on 18 January 1778 during Capt. James Cook's third Pacific expedition. Escorted by HMS Discovery, the expedition was surprised to find high islands this far north in the central Pacific. O‘ahu was not actually visited by Europeans until 28 February 1779 when Captain Clerke aboard HMS Resolution stepped ashore at Waimea Bay. Clerke had taken command of the ship after Capt. Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay (Island of Hawai‘i) on February 14, and was leaving the islands for the North Pacific.
Today, O‘ahu has become a tourism and shopping haven as over 5 million visitors (mainly from the American mainland and Japan) flock there every year to enjoy the quintessential island holiday experience that the Hawaiian Islands and her multicultural people now personify.
- See also: Honolulu
- Macdonald, Gordon A., Agatin T. Abbott, and Frank L. Peterson. 1983. Volcanoes in the Sea. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu. 517 pp.
- Pukui, M.K., S.H. Elbert, and E.T. Mookini. 1976. Place names of Hawai‘i. University of Hawai‘i Press. 289 pp.
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