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Haleakala Crater

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Hawaii, United States.

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Haleakala is the name of the crater that forms the summit of East Maui Volcano. Maui, one of the younger islands in Hawaiian chain, began as two separate volcanoes on the ocean floor about 2.0 million years ago. Over geologic ages the volcanoes erupted, adding layer upon layer of lava, until their peaks emerged above the surface of the sea. The larger eastern peak has a height of 10,023 feet (3055 meters) above the ocean and approximately 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) from its base on the ocean floor (97% of Haleakala’s volume is actually below sea level). Haleakala is often, and incorrectly, said to be the largest dormant volcanic crater in the world, but there are larger volcanic craters, called calderas, elsewhere on the planet. Haleakala is not truly dormant, having last erupted around 1790 (it has erupted at least 10 times since the year 1000), and it is also not a true crater, but rather the remnant of two erosional valleys partially re-filled with lava from more recent volcanic activity. Still, the ‘crater’ of Haleakala is a vast place, large enough to contain all of Manhattan Island. From the rim of the crater trails lead 3000 feet down to miles of hiking trails and cabins available for overnight stays. Haleakala means the ‘House of the Sun’, and originally applied only to the eastern peak. According to Polynesian legend it was here that the demigod Maui captured the sun and forced it to slow its journey across the sky in order to give his people more daylight hours. Before then the sun moved too rapidly and there was little time to do anything during the day. Archaeological studies of several small temples and altars within the crater indicate that Hawaiian peoples venerated Haleakala since at least 800 AD. Today the name Haleakala is applied to the entire mountain.

Photo: Haleakala Crater, Island of Maui

The Haleakala Crater on Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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