3d views of Loihi
On this page: General information about Loihi.
Links to a Virtual Tour of Loihi and to the 1996 eruption (seismic/volcanic/hydrothermal activity) are from the buttons in the lower image above.
The beige area of the button bar leads to the main update page; blue buttons lead to detail pages

Links: [General Info (this page) |Virtual Tour |Seismicity |Rock Gallery |Updates |1996 Eruption Summary |Recent Activity |Expeditions |Videos ]

NEW:See 2017 seismic swarm info at the loihi_seismicity page
think tech hawaii on set UH profs Ken Rubin and Brian Glazer talk about recent and past research at Loihi on ThinkTech Hawaii, July 2014. This episode highlights Brian's recent expedition on the Falkor, but we also managed to touch a bit on broader topics, such as deep submergence science today (rovs-including our Luukai, hovs, auvs, telepresence, ocean observatories), studying submarine volcanoes, microbial and hydrothermal processes, and the history of work at Loihi.

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General Information About Loihi

3d view of Loihi summit
three-D representation of the Loihi summit region using publically-available multi-beam bathymetry data image by K. Rubin using GeoMappApp
    Loihi seamount, sometimes known as the "youngest volcano" in the Hawaiian chain, is an undersea mountain rising more than 3000 meters above the floor of the Pacific Ocean (Loihi is the red-capped nub that is pointed out in the of the image above). Both Loihi and Kilauea volcanoes sit on the flank Mauna Loa volcano, an older, larger, and still active volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. Loihi sits submerged in the Pacific off of the south-eastern coast of the Big Island of Hawaii (this is the grey area labeled "Hawaii" at the top of the image). Although hidden beneath the waves, Loihi is nevertheless taller than Mt. St. Helens was prior to the catastropic volcanism there in 1980.
    Before to the 1970's, Loihi was not known to be an active volcano. Instead, it was thought to be a fairly common old seamount volcano of the type that surrounds the Hawaiian islands. These latter volcanoes are similar in age (80-100 million years old) to the sea floor upon which the Big Island of Hawaii sits. This sea floor was itself created some 6000 km away on the undersea volcanic mountain chain known as the East Pacific Rise. It has slowly moved north-westward to the present location of the Hawaiian Hotspot.
Volcanoes on the 
Big Island with Loihi highlighted

    In 1970, our ideas about the seamount changed drastically following an expedition that went to Loihi to study an earthquake swarm (intense, repeated seismic activity) that had just occurred there. It was revealed that Loihi was a young, active volcano, rather than an old dead seamount from a bygone aeon. The volcano is mantled with young and old lava flows and is activly venting hydrothermal fluids at it's summit and south rift zone.
    In August 1996 Loihi volcano rumbled to life again with a vengence and has been intermittantly active since then (as described elsewhere at this web site). In fact, University of Hawaii scientists studying the seamount following the 1996 seismic swarm have found direct evidence of a volcanic eruption there in 1996, making this the first confirmed historical eruption of the seamount.
   From 1997 through 2002, Loihi hosted the Hawaii Undersea Geo Observatory (HUGO), one of the first deep sea autonomous submarine observatories, which was connected by cable to a shore station of the Big island.
    Loihi shares the Hawaiian hot spot with its larger active siblings Mauna Loa and Kilauea. You can view a schematic representation of the geometry of this situation HERE. If you would like to learn more about how the Hawaiian islands formed from a single mantle hotspot, visit the Formation of the Hawaiian Islands web page at this site.


What's up at Loihi Today?
See the links for details
  • Get details on the Loihi Update page.
  • Learn about past Research Expeditions to the volcano at our site.
  • The most recent expedition to Loihi (The Iron Eaters of Loihi Seamount) studied microbiology at the volcano in June/July of 2014.
  • SOEST had plans to visit Loihi in early 2014 with its new ROV Luukai but had to scrap those plans for a later date due to technical problems with the vehicle. Hopefully we will get there soon.


summit map of Loihi


The image to the left is a shaded "Bathymetric map" of Loihi Seamount as it now looks, following the July 1996 eruption and seismic event. The 3 depressions in the summit area are "pit craters"; the lower-left most crater was formed in July 1996.

    "Bathymetry" refers to the depth from the ocean's surface to features on the seafloor. As you might expect, low numbers on a depth map refer to shallow regions, or the high point on a submarine mountain such as Loihi. Shallow regions are given in warm colors on this map; cool colors are the deep regions.

Map made by former UH graduate student Nathan Becker using 1997 seabeam bathymetry and the GMT program

Loihi pillow lava

   A bulbous pillow lava from Loihi's summit area. Most of the rocks to be found on Loihi's summit are coated by some amount of fine sediment and/or clay minerals that come from the interaction of sea water with the rock's surface. Only the very youngest rocks typically are sediment-free in this environment. 1980s Analog photo from the Pisces V submarine (Mike Garcia) reprocessed by the site author)

   More recent lava sampling on Loihi with the Pisces V submarine
sampling Loihi pillow lava

   You can see examples of very young Loihi lavas on our Rock Gallery page and learn about the Chemical compositions of young rocks from Loihi at our web site.


Other web resources about Loihi

Awards we have received for the HCV site are displayed on our main page. The Loihi Sub Site has specifically received this additional award
Key Resource A Links2Go
Key Resource Site


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This page created and maintained by Ken Rubin©,
Other credits for this web site.

Last page update on 23 Jun 2017