“But isn’t that Mount Everest in the Himalayas?” wise Wonder Friends might ask. Indeed, the summit of Mount Everest is the highest point on Earth, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the world’s tallest mountain.
That honor goes to Mauna Kea, a volcano in Hawaii that not only reaches high into the sky but also deep under the water. Standing 13,803 feet above sea level, the peak of Mauna Kea is the highest point in Hawaii. From its base on the ocean floor to its peak, high in the sky; however, Mauna Kea stands a total of 33,500 feet tall! That’s more than three times the base to peak height of Mount Everest!
Mauna Kea is actually a volcano that last erupted over 4,600 years ago. Although it is dormant right now, Mauna Kea is likely to erupt again one day. The period of time between its eruptions is quite long, though, compared to the active volcanoes in Hawaii. Scientists can’t predict when it might erupt again, but they monitor it regularly to look for signs of a potential eruption.
A volcano might not be the spot you would choose to go skiing, but Hawaiians actually consider Mauna Kea to be a prime spot for skiing and snowboarding. Although Mauna Kea doesn’t always have snow, its summit is snow-covered and suitable for skiing, often enough that its name in Hawaiian means “White Mountain.”
Due to its high elevation and dry, stable environment, Mauna Kea’s summit is one of the best places in the world to study the sky. Since an access road to the summit was built in 1964, 11 different countries have built 13 large telescopes at the top of Mauna Kea.
Together, these telescopes form one of the largest and most unique astronomical observatories. Their presence is not without controversy, however, as some local Hawaiians do not like their sacred mountain being used for such purposes. Others fear what may happen to endangered species in the area.