Physical Features. The Hawaiian Islands are volcanic
peaks which have come up from the ocean bed. There are eight
principal islands and many smaller ones, having a combined
area less than that of the state of New Jersey. On the island
of Hawaii, which is the largest in the group, the mountains have
risen to a height of over 14,000 feet. Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea
are the two highest of these volcanoes. On the slope of Mauna Loa
is the tremendous crater of Kilauea (Fig. 169). The summit of
Mauna Loa and the crater of Kilauea are national parks.
Climate. Since these mountain peaks rose in the torrid zone, in the midst of a great ocean, they have a warm climate with but a slight change in temperature from summer to winter. The winds are the northeast trades, and they bring plenty of rainfall to the windward side of the mountains. The precipitation reaches 75 inches a year on that side, but on the southwest, or leeward, side the annual rainfall is less than 25 inches. One side of an island is therefore well wooded, while the other side is a semidesert.
The people and their occupations. The population of these islands is about 200,000. The native Hawaiians belong to the brown race. They are an intelligent people but have been decreasing in numbers. White people have invested money in the development of the plantations, and a great many people from Japan, China, and the Phillipines have gone to the islands to work. Sugar cane is the chief crop. Pineapples, coffee, rice, bananas, tobacco, and citrous fruits are also raised (Fig. 167).
The location of these islands is fortunate, for the ocean routes from our Pacific coast ports to New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, China, and Japan naturally pass near the Hawaiian group. They are sometimes spoken of as at the "cross-roads of the Pacific." They are used as a coaling station, and large reserves of coal are held there for the United States Navy. Vessels may put in at these islands to make repairs.
Cities. Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, is the capital and largest city. It has a good harbor and is the chief port of the territory (Fig. 168). The next largest city is Hilo, on the island of Hawaii.
Government. In 1893 the white people took control of the government of the Hawaiian Islands and in 1898 offered them to the United States. These Islands now constitute one of our territories.