Hawaii’s volcanoes did more than sculpt the landscape. They actually built the islands from scratch.
The Hawaiian chain sits atop the Pacific plate, a shifting block of the earth’s crust. Beneath the plate lies a stationary hot spot. It produces a column of magma, creating volcanoes that gradually rise above the sea to form islands.
As the plate slowly drifts northwest, each island in turn is pulled away from the hot spot, and the volcanoes are extinguished.
The hot spot now sits twenty miles south of the big island, where it’s creating a new volcano named Loihi.