Pacific state of the USA, the only island state, separate from the North American continent and the world's longest island chain, made up of 8 main islands and 124 islets and reefs; area 16,635 sq km/6,423 sq mi; population (2010) 1,360,301; capital Honolulu on Oahu. It was officially nicknamed the Aloha State in 1959, after the Hawaiian greeting. The island group is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the east end is 3,400 km/2,100 mi southwest of California. The Tropic of Cancer passes through the islands. Tourism is by far the biggest industry in Hawaii. Major towns and cities include Hilo, Kailua, Kaneohe, and Waipahu. Settled over a thousand years ago by Polynesian immigrants, the islands remained largely unknown until their discovery by English explorer James Cook in 1778. King Kamehameha I united the Hawaiian islands into an internationally recognized kingdom in 1793. In the course of the next century, Hawaii evolved from a kingdom, to a republic, to a US territory, and finally a US state, developing a thriving economy from the harvesting of pineapple and sugar cane. Hawaii made world history on 7 December 1941 when Japanese pilots attacked Pearl Harbor, drawing the USA into World War II. Named after its largest island, Hawaii became the 50th state of the Union in 1959.
Physical Hawaii is an island chain, west–northwest/east–southeast in orientation and 2,700 km/1,700 mi in length. The state's largest islands are Hawaii, Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, and Niihau, each of which are effectively the exposed peaks of submerged volcanoes. The chain was formed from west to east by volcanic forces that continue to be active on the southeasternmost island, Hawaii.
To the west-northwest of the larger islands are many smaller islands, shoals, and banks now within the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, including Nihoa, Necker Island, the French Frigate Shoals, Tern Island, La Perouse Pinnacle, the Gardner Pinnacles, Laysan Island, and Lisianski Island. To their northwest are the group formed by the Pearl and Hermes Reef, Kittery Island, and the North and Southeast islands. At the northwest end of the Hawaiian chain is Kure Island, site of a coastguard station. Between Kure and the rest of the chain lies the Midway Islands, administered by the US Navy and not included when the state was admitted to the Union.
Hawaii is almost twice as large as the other main islands and was formed by five volcanoes: Mauna Kea (4,200 m/13,784 ft), the world's highest island mountain; Mauna Loa (4,169 m/13,678 ft), the largest active volcanic crater in the world; Kilauea, the world's most active volcano; Kohala; and Hualalai. In addition to the lava beds and barren ash-covered slopes covering much of the island, Hawaii has large areas of tropical rainforests, waterfalls, and stretches of rolling grasslands.
Maui is the second largest of the islands, called the Valley Island because of the fertile isthmus that divides two mountainous stretches. Haleakala is the tallest point and the largest dormant volcanic crater.
Oahu is the third largest island, known as the Gathering Place. It is home to three-quarters of the state's population and is the state capital. Two parallel mountain ranges separate a rolling plateau that supports pineapple and sugar-cane plantations.
Kauai is home to Waimea Canyon and to Mount Waialeale, the world's rainiest place.
Steep cliffs, sandy white beaches, and coral reefs just offshore mark the Hawaiian coastline. The longest rivers are the Wailua and Waimea on Kauai, the Wailuku River on Hawaii, and Kaukonahua Stream on Oahu, though none of the rivers in Hawaii are more than 50 km/30 mi long. Waterfalls are found on most of the main islands.
Hawaii has a tropical climate with two traditional seasons: the kau, or summer period, which lasts from mid-April until mid-October, and the ho'oilo, or winter season, which lasts from mid-October to mid-April. Though mild compared to more temperate climates, the winter season can bring severe wind and rain conditions.
Forests and woodlands cover 43% of the state's total land area, with grasslands and pasture covering an additional 25%. Common native trees include ohia, hala, and koa. Hawaii's plant life is a mixture of native and imported species. Polynesian settlers introduced the coconut, breadfruit, sweet potato, yam, banana, sugar cane, and arrowroot to the islands, along with several trees, such as the kukui and the paper mulberry. More than 5,000 varieties of flowers are cultivated in the state. Native animals are limited to insects, snails, one bat species, and several birds; humans have introduced most of the land mammals. Over 650 species of fish are found in Hawaiian waters.
FeaturesMauna Kea Observatory, set on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, is a world centre for astronomy, featuring gigantic telescopes used for optical, infrared, and submillimetre astronomy. Honokaa is where the first macadamia trees were planted in 1881. Puukohola National Historic Site features temples built in 1791. Hulihea Palace was the Hawaiian king's summer residence in the 1880s. At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (a World Heritage Site), the Kilauea volcano can be seen steaming. Halemaumau Crater is considered the home of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. The park also includes a rainforest and the Kau Desert, which was created by natural acid rain.
Maui has the Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum and the Wailuku historical district. Lahaina is home to a banyan tree planted in 1873. Rainbow Falls are where the Wailuku River plunges 25 m/80 ft, creating mists that the sun transfigures into rainbows. Haleakala National Park protects the biosystems of the Kipahulu Valley, and is home to a bamboo forest, Waimoku Falls, the sacred pools along Oheo Gulch, and many rare and endangered species.
Oahu is the most populated of the islands and the most frequented by tourists. Visitors to Honolulu can explore the Mission Houses Museum, dating from the 1820s and home of the first US missionaries; Kawaiahao Church (1842); Iolani Palace (1882), the only royal palace in the USA; Aliiolani Hale (the old judiciary building); and Honolulu Hale (1929), the city hall. Pearl Harbor naval base features the USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Memorial. Diamond Head, an extinct volcanic crater, is located on the southeastern end of the island at Waikiki.
Kauai, a former plantation town, features Waioli Mission, founded in 1837 at Hanalei. Built of coral limestone blocks, its chimney was put in place by the Reverend William Alexander, the first missionary on the island. On Kauai's Coconut Coast, the Bell Stone, when struck sharply, sent a note ringing across the Wailua Valley and was once used to announce royal births.
Molokai was a leper colony until 1888. The Kalaupapa National Historic Park is an educational centre, and serves as a reminder of a time when new diseases for which natives had no immunity were introduced to the islands. Meyer Sugar Mill is the oldest mill in Hawaii and offers a taste of 19th-century plantation life.
Culture Hawaii has a unique cultural heritage. Because it has an amalgamation of races, languages, religions, and cultures, there tends to be little racial discrimination. Most residents of the state do not call themselves Hawaiians, reserving the term for those descending from early Polynesian inhabitants of the islands. It is the only state where the native language is not English. Kamehameha II abolished the native religion, a form of nature worship, in 1819. Through the efforts of missionaries to the islands in the 1800s, many were converted to Christianity.
Honolulu is the state's cultural centre and the Honolulu Academy of Arts is the main art museum. The islands attract many artists, providing natural backdrops and lighting that cannot be found anywhere else in the USA. Honolulu is also home to the Bishop Museum (1889), dedicated to preserving Hawaiian and Polynesian history and culture.
The Honolulu Symphony performs an annual series of concerts featuring famous soloists from the mainland. Honolulu's first theatre opened in 1847. The Diamond Head Theater, along with a number of smaller community groups, performs classic and contemporary plays.
The University of Hawaii includes campuses on Honolulu, Hilo, and West Oahu, as well as several community colleges. The Center for Cultural and Technical Interchange Between East and West, better known as the East-West Center, draws scholars from all over the world.
The Hawaiian culture is perhaps best known for its distinctive music and dance. The traditional dance is the hula, originally performed in honour of the goddess Laka. Dancers use stylized hand and arm gestures to interpret prayers, poems, and stories. An older form of sacred dance known as the kahiko, which bears little resemblance to the hula, is also performed. Tourists are treated to the popular Hawaiian feast called the luau and can participate in a hukilau, or local fishing festival.
Early native folk music consisted of chants, but this gave way to the hymn-inspired music that now constitutes much of the local sound. The ukulele, a small, high-pitched guitar thought to be Hawaiian, was actually brought to the islands in the late l9th century by Portuguese immigrants. The Hawaiian, or steel, guitar was introduced around 1895. Modern and traditional music have been fused to create a unique island sound.
Hiking, swimming, fishing, and snorkelling are all popular outdoor activities. Surfing, however, which originated in ancient Hawaii, continues to be the leading sport, attracting professionals and amateurs to the islands.
GovernmentHawaii's state constitution The state constitution was modelled on the constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Formulated by the 1950 Constitutional Convention, it was ratified by voters of the territory on 7 November 1950, then amended in 1959, at the time of admission to the Union. Since 1950, there have been two Constitutional Conventions, in 1968 and 1978. The state constitution has been amended numerous times.
Structure of state government The state's bicameral (two-chamber) legislature consists of a 25-member Senate, elected from 25 senatorial districts, serving four-year terms, and the House of Representatives, comprising 51 members elected from 51 districts for two-year terms. Hawaii sends two representatives and two senators to the US Congress, and has four electoral votes in presidential elections.
The governor and lieutenant governor head the executive branch and are elected on the same party ticket for concurrent terms of four years. Their office is limited to two consecutive terms. Democrat Neil Abercrombie took the governorship in December 2010.
A Supreme Court heads the judiciary, appointed by the governor with Senate approval. It has a chief justice and four associated justices who serve renewable ten-year terms. The remaining court system includes an intermediate appellate court, four circuit courts, four district courts, four family courts, a land court, and a tax appeal court.
Local government is conducted at county level, each with a mayor and council. The four counties are Honolulu County, Maui County, Kauai County, and Hawaii County.
Economy Hawaii's earliest economy was self-sufficient, relying on fishing and farming. During the 18th century, immigrants to the state introduced new crops, which opened additional trading opportunities. During the early part of the 20th century, the US government invested in military operations, which continues to be a major source of revenue and employment. After World War II, the state concentrated on becoming a world-class tourist destination.
In contemporary Hawaii, tourism is by far the most important stimulus to the economy, representing approximately a quarter of gross product directly. Food processing, clothing, and stone, clay, and glass products contribute to the manufacturing sector, while agricultural production includes sugar, coffee, pineapples, macadamia nuts, orchids and other flowers, livestock, poultry, and dairy goods.
Both Honolulu and Hilo are centres of commerce for the state, with Hilo the chief port.
HistoryIndigenous inhabitants A Polynesian kingdom from the 6th century, Hawaii was largely self-sufficient, with locals relying primarily on fishing, farming, and gathering of wild plants for their food. Fish and poi, a pastelike substance made from the underground stem of the taro plant, were their main foods.
Exploration and Western influence James Cook, who called Hawaii the Sandwich Islands, was the first known European to arrive there, in 1778. At that time, there were an estimated 300,000 native inhabitants. By 1842, the indigenous population had fallen by 90%. This was mainly because of the introduction of new diseases, to which the population had no natural immunity, in particular smallpox, measles, tuberculosis, leprosy, and syphilis. Another factor, especially in the earlier part of the 19th century, was the exodus of young men who enlisted as sailors on foreign ships. The whaling industry was also important in the 19th century.
Monarchy years The monarchy years mark the period of time between the unification of the islands by Kamehameha I (the Great) in 1810 to the overthrow of the Hawaiian government in 1893. Prior to this consolidation of power the islands were ruled by regional monarchs. Kamehameha I waged several wars and eventually established a centralized hereditary monarchy. Open to new ideas, he promoted trade with Europe and the USA to increase the islands' wealth. Missionaries exerted great influence and many Hawaiians abandoned their native religious practices. During the 30-year reign of Kamehameha III, the king issued a basic human-rights statement, which was then incorporated into the kingdom's first constitution, by which the people were given the right to vote for government representation. In 1848 the Hawaiian government began land reforms that allowed people to own small plots of land, though many then sold them to white entrepreneurs.
Political development US and European influence grew in the 19th century as the sugar industry expanded and foreign business became influential. Because of US, British, and French rivalry over the islands, Kamehameha III attempted to place Hawaii under US protection in 1851. This was not successful, but annexation of the islands to the USA was accepted by Congress in 1898, after the US consul John Stevens had effectively taken control of the kingdom in 1893, a move for which the USA officially apologized in 1993. Under the Reciprocity Treaty imposed in 1887, in exchange for duty-free sugar transport, Pearl Harbor was ceded to the USA, and the government proceeded to establish an important naval base there. Republican forces overthrew the monarchy in 1893, and the republican government agreed to annexation. Hawaii became a US territory in 1900.
20th-century history At the start of the century, Hawaii's territorial economy was based primarily on sugar and pineapples. The native population had dwindled to less than 50,000, forcing an influx of Japanese and Chinese labourers to keep up production. The major plantation companies, known as the Big Five, largely ran the economy and government. The most significant event of the time was the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Japan's air attack crippled the US Pacific fleet and turned the territory into an armed camp, under martial law, for the remainder of World War II.
The end of the war brought dramatic political, economic, and social upheavals to Hawaii. Once a Republican stronghold, the Democratic Party made huge strides during the 1940s. The 1949 Longshore Strike by island labourers seeking wage parity lasted for six months and crippled the territory's economy. The 1950s saw the development of a tourist industry and an increase in manufacturing that included food-processing and cement plants. Following many years of campaigning by proponents of statehood, Hawaii was admitted as the 50th state of the USA in 1959. Democratic US senator Daniel Inouye (1924–2012), elected in 1963, served for the rest of the century and into the 21st.
Tourism continued to expand, with the introduction of jet airline services to the islands and hotel construction and development. In 1965 Hawaii became a foreign trade zone, permitting goods to be processed and reprocessed for export to foreign countries without incurring US customs fees.
The establishment of the East–West Center in the 1960s made Hawaii a centre for international education. By the end of the 20th century, a movement to revive the Hawaiian language, led by the state's Office of Hawaiian Affairs, helped establish Hawaiian-language based education. Many independent planning and engineering consultants, architects, and other firms and professionals associated with tourism development made their base in Hawaii and continue to play an active role in Pacific trade.
Hawaii is unusual in having had an almost universal health care system since 1974. All businesses have been required to provide employees working over 20 hours a week with health care.
Famous peoplesport Duke Paoa Kahanamoku (1890–1968), Olympic swimmer; Sid Fernandez (1962– ), baseball player
the arts James Michener (1907–1997), author; Toshiko Takaezu (1922–2011), ceramist; Don Ho (1930–2007), entertainer; Bette Midler (1945– ), actor and singer; Tia Carrere (1967– ), actor
society and education Joseph de Veuster, Father Damien, (1840–1889), Belgian missionary
economics Steve Case (1958– ), entrepreneur
politics and lawKamehameha I (c. 1758–1819), unifier and king; Sanford Dole (1844–1926), judge and public official; Daniel K Inouye (1924–2012), politician; Barack Obama (1961– ), 44th president of the USA
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