Mauna Loa is famous because it is the world’s largest active volcano. It’s name literally means “Long Mountain” and the name is fitting. It covers more than half of the landscape of Hawaii Island. To compare it to other famous mountain, Mt. Rainer, Mauna Loa is 500x greater in total volume. It’s so big, in fact, that the Pacific plate sags because of the weight of the volcano.
1. A Massive Source of Lava
Many visitors to Hawaii are familiar with Kilauea because of its daily lava output. What many people don’t realize is that the daily lava output of Mauna Loa is up to 24x greater than that of Kilauea. The volcano erupts about once every 5-6 years and scientists believe that there have been 4 explosive eruptions over the course of history.
2. An Underwater Giant
In terms of total size, Mauna Loa stands over 13,000 feet above sea level at its summit. The only problem is that there is another 16,000 feet of volcano that is under water. This puts the total height of Mauna Loa at over 30,000 feet. In comparison, Mt. Everest is calculated to be 29,029 feet at its summit. At 30 miles long and 60 miles wide, that’s a lot of volcano to consider.
3. A Practical Joke
When Mauna Loa erupted in 1984, the volcanic observatory’s head of operations, a man named Bob Decker, was leaving to work in California. His send-off party was the night the volcano would erupt. The staff even joked that it would be fantastic for the volcano to erupt on the night that Bob would be leaving. When Decker got the call of the eruption, he hung up because he thought it was just a joke.
4. A Religious Event
At one point, the lava flows from Mauna Loa were threatening the community of Hilo. This caused emergency management officials to secretly plan for lava diversion so that hospitals and other service buildings could be saved. Why the secrecy? Because in Hawaii, it is considered blasphemy to attempt diverting the flow of lava in any way.
Mauna Loa is one of the natural wonders of the world. It’s size is impressive and people can take a 2 day hike up the mountain to experience it first-hand. In many ways, this volcano epitomizes what Hawaii is all about.