The islands are about 1,860 miles (3,000 km) from the nearest continent.
Captain James Cook visited the islands on January 18, 1778 and named them the "Sandwich Islands" in honor of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, who was one of his sponsors as the First Lord of the Admiralty.
The city of Hilo on the Big Island has been most affected by tsunamis, where the in-rushing water is accentuated by the shape of Hilo Bay. A tsunami resulting from an earthquake in Chile hit the islands on February 27, 2010.
The Hawaiian Islands have many earthquakes, generally caused by volcanic activity.Most of the early earthquake monitoring took place in Hilo, by missionaries Titus Coan, Sarah J. From 1833 to 1896, approximately 4 or 5 earthquakes were reported per year.Mauna Loa, taking up over half of the Big Island, is the largest shield volcano on the Earth.The measurement from sea level to summit is more than 2.5 miles (4 km), from sea level to sea floor about 3.1 miles (5 km).It was relatively minor, but local officials ordered evacuations in preparation for a possible major event. Human contact, first by Polynesians, introduced new trees, other plants and animals.
These included voracious species such as rats and pigs, who took a heavy toll on native birds and invertebrates that evolved in the absence of such predators.On October 15, 2006, there was an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 off the northwest coast of the island of Hawaii, near the Kona area of the big island.The initial earthquake was followed approximately five minutes later by a magnitude 5.7 aftershock.The waves produced by the earthquakes travel at speeds of 400–500 miles per hour (600–800 km/h) and can affect coastal regions thousands of miles (kilometers) away.Tsunamis may also originate from the Hawaiian Islands. The island of Molokai is another potential place for a large landslide and resulting tsunami.The majority of eruptions in Hawaii are Hawaiian-type eruptions because basaltic magma is relatively fluid compared with magmas typically involved in more explosive eruptions, such as the andesitic magmas that produce some of the spectacular and dangerous eruptions around the margins of the Pacific basin.