Erosion Always Wins: Kauai

Wickersham's Conscience

Waimea Canyon from the lower lookout, Kauai, Hawai'i Waimea Canyon from the lower lookout, Kauai, Hawai’i

In WC’s Geomorphology class, on the first day, the professor (whose name WC has forgotten) told us, “If you only take one thing away for this course, it should be this: Erosion always wins.”

If you need proof of that claim, you should visit Kauai, the oldest of the principle islands of the Hawai’ian Islands. And the most eroded.

It’s easy to describe in general terms the geologic reason for the existence of the Hawai’ian Islands, a chain of northwesterly-trending volcanic islands in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. A plume – a “hotspot” – in the mantle punches up through the Pacific Plate, pumping immense amounts of lava out onto the ocean floor.1

Eventually the pile of lava rises more than 14,000 feet above the sea floor and breaks the surface of the Pacific. And an island is born…

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