is the most recent of the 50 U.S. states (August 21, 1959), and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. the eight "main islands" are (from the northwest to southeast) Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui, and the island of Hawaiʻi. The last is by far the largest and is often called "The Big Island" to avoid confusion with the state as a whole.
All the Hawaiian islands were formed from volcanic activity initiated at an undersea magma source called a hotspot. As the tectonic plate beneath much of the Pacific Ocean moves to the northwest, the hot spot remains stationary, slowly creating new volcanoes. Due to the hotspot’s location, the only active volcanoes are located around the southern half of the Big Island. The newest volcano, Lōʻihi Seamount, is located south of the Big Island’s coast.The last volcanic eruption outside the Big Island occurred at Haleakalā on Maui before the late 18th century, though it could have been hundreds of years earlier. In 1790, Kīlauea exploded with the deadliest eruption (of the modern era) known to have occurred in what is now the United States. As many as 5,405 warriors and their families marching on Kīlauea were killed by that eruption.Volcanic activity and subsequent erosion have created impressive geological features. The Big Island has the third highest point among the world’s islands.Slope instability of the volcanoes has generated damaging earthquakes with related tsunamis, particularly in 1868 and 1975. Steep cliffs have been caused by catastrophic debris avalanches on the submerged flanks of ocean island volcanos.
Because the islands are so far from other land habitats, life before human activity is said to have arrived by the “3 W’s”: wind (carried through the air), waves (brought by ocean currents), and wings (birds, insects, and whatever they brought with them). This isolation, and the wide range of environments (extreme altitude, tropical climate) produced a vast array of endemicflora and fauna (see Endemism in the Hawaiian Islands). Hawaii has more endangered species and has lost a higher percentage of its endemic species than any other U.S. state.
The earliest habitation supported by archaeological evidence dates to as early as 300 CE, probably by Polynesian settlers from the Marquesas, followed by a second wave of migration from Raiatea and Bora Bora in the 11th century. The first recorded European contact with the islands was in 1778 by British explorer James Cook.Polynesians from the Marquesas and possibly the Society Islands may have first populated the Hawaiian Islands between 300 and 500 CE. There is a great deal of debate regarding these dates.
The 1778 arrival of British explorer James Cook was Hawaii’s first documented contact with Europeanexplorers. Cook named the islands the "Sandwich Islands" in honor of his sponsor John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. He published the islands' location and reported the native name as Owyhee.Cook visited the islands twice. Upon his departure during his second visit in 1779, a quarrel ensued, involving Cook's taking of temple idols and fencing as "firewood", and the taking of a ship's boat by a minor chief and his men. Cook then abducted the King of the Big Island of Hawaii, Kalaniʻōpuʻu, and held him as ransom aboard his ship for the return of the boat, a tactic that had worked for Cook in Tahiti and other islands.Kalaniʻōpuʻu's supporters fought back and Cook and four Marines were killed as Cook's party retreated to the beach and launched their boats.After Cook's visit and the publication of several books relating his voyages, the Hawaiian islands received many European visitors: explorers, traders, and eventually whalers who found the islands a convenient harbor and source of supplies. These visitors introduced diseases to the once-isolated islands and the Hawaiian population plunged precipitously because native Hawaiians had no resistance to influenza, smallpox, and measles, among others. During the 1850s, measles killed a fifth of Hawaii's people.
During the 1780s and 1790s, chiefs were often fighting for power. After a series of battles that ended in 1795 and forced cession of the island of Kauaʻi in 1810, all inhabited islands were subjugated under a single ruler who became known as King Kamehameha the Great. He established the House of Kamehameha, a dynasty that ruled the kingdom until 1872.After Kamehameha II inherited the throne in 1819, American Protestant missionaries to Hawaii converted many Hawaiians to Christianity. Their influence ended many ancient practices, and Kamehameha III was the first Christian king. One prominent Protestant missionary, Hiram Bingham I, was a trusted adviser to the monarchy during this period. Other missionaries and their descendants became active in commercial and political affairs, leading to future conflicts between the monarchy and its restive American subjects.Missionaries from other Christian denominations (such as Catholics, Mormons, and Episcopalians) were active, but never converted more than a minority of the Native Hawaiian population.The death of the bachelor King Kamehameha V—who did not name an heir—resulted in the popular election of Lunalilo over Kalākaua. Lunalilo died the next year, also without naming an heir. Perhaps "the People's King" (Lunalilo) wanted the people to choose his successor as they had chosen him. In 1874 the election was contested within the legislature between Kalākaua and Emma. This led to riots and the landing of U.S. and British troops, and governance passed to the House of Kalākaua.