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Mauna Loa

By Rebecca Hernandez

The Hawaiian Islands have long been known as a great holiday destination, but geeks should know that the island of Hawaii itself is home to an incredible geologic landmark: the largest volcano on earth.

Mauna Loa is an active volcano, its last eruption being in 1984. The volcano is thought to have emerged from sea level around 400,000 years ago. Its eruptions are non-explosive, so the threat of a Mount Saint Helens-type eruption is quite small. Mauna Loa tends to slowly ooze out lava instead, and many of the towns on the island are built upon lava flows from former eruptions.

In addition to being an important geological site, Mauna Loa is also host to two important scientific observatories. The Mauna Loa Observatory, operated by NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), collects and analyses data pertinent to atmospheric change, including measuring CO2 levels. Tours of the facility can be arranged by appointment. The High Altitude Observatory operates the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory, which collects solar data and images.

And at the end of the day, if all this geology, astronomy and atmospheric science have got you a bit knackered, you can head back down the mountain and chill out on the beach with a Mai Tai among all of the non-geeky tourists. Truly the best of both worlds.

Time required: a month, at least. Oh go on make it six weeks

Money: ££££

More information: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

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Hub image (which isn't actually Mauna Loa, but Maui): Chris LaCroix

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21 Feb 2010
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