Northwest Hawaii Islands

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Northwest Hawaii Islands
Map of the entire Hawaiian archipelago
Map of the entire Hawaiian archipelago
Waters Pacific
archipelago Hawaii
Geographical location 26 ° 0 ′  N , 170 ° 30 ′  W Coordinates: 26 ° 0 ′  N , 170 ° 30 ′  W
Map of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Number of islands 10 islands / atolls
Main island Midway Islands
Total land area 14.3 km²
Residents 40 (scientist)

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands or Windward (abbreviated NWHI , English Northwestern Hawai'ian Islands or Leeward , hawaiian Papahānaumokuākea ) are a chain of small islands , atolls and coral reefs in the central Pacific Ocean .

They are located northwest of the main islands ( Southeastern Hawaiʻian Islands or Windward Islands ) belonging to Kauaʻi and Niʻihau and, with the exception of the Midway Islands , which are a so-called non-incorporated territory of the USA , belong to the US state of Hawaii . Administratively, they are assigned to Honolulu County .


The Northwest Hawaiian Islands extend in the Pacific Ocean at about 25 ° north latitude for a length of approximately 2000 kilometers from about 161 ° west longitude to the date line at 180 ° longitude.

The total land area of ​​all islands is only about 14.3 km², of which almost half (6.23 km²) is on the Midway Islands.

The island chain includes in geographical order from southeast to northwest:

map Aerial
Surname Hawaiian Area
in ha
Number of
most densely
's population
Nihoa map lrg.gif Nihoa aerial.jpg Nihoa Nihoa (Moku Manu) 070.0 01 -
Necker map lrg.gif Necker island.jpg Necker Island Mokumanamana 018.3 01 -
Ffs map lrg.png French Frigate Shoals.jpg French frigate shoals Kānemilohaʻi 024.9 13 -
Gardner map lrg.gif Gardnerpin NOAA.jpg Gardner Pinnacles Pūhāhonu 002.4 02 -
Maro map lrg.gif Maro Reef.jpg Maro Reef Nalukakala 000.4 - -
Laysan map lrg.gif Laysan Aerial.jpg Laysan Kauo 411.4 01 -
Lisianski map lrg.gif Lisianski Island - Hawaiian Chain.jpg Lisianski Papaʻāpoho 155.6 01 -
Pearl map lrg.gif Pearl and Hermes.jpg Pearl and Hermes Atoll Holoikauaua 036.0 06th -
Midway Atoll map de.svg Midway Atoll.png Midway Atoll Pihemanu 623.0 03 40 1)
Kure map lrg.gif KureAtoll.jpg Kure atoll Mokupāpapa 086.2 02 -

1) scientist


Map of the North Pacific with the Hawaii Emperor chain (center)

The island chain is of volcanic origin and part of the Hawaii-Emperor chain that extends from Kamchatka to the island of Hawaii ( Big Island ) . It emerged from the same volcanic hotspot that formed the main Hawaiian islands and is currently responsible for the growth of the island of Hawaii at the southeast end of the archipelago.

While the Big Island is still growing, all the islands in the northwest are already shrinking again. Thus, the height of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands usually decreases from southeast to northwest, northwest of the Kure Atoll then only so-called seamounts exist .

The age of the islands ranges from 7.2 million years (Nihoa) to 29.8 million years (Kure Atoll). Many of the older islands would no longer reach the surface of the sea or would be much smaller if corals had not started to build reefs on the old volcanoes. The reefs grow fast enough to compensate for the subsidence of the volcanic structures. With the old volcanoes further north this process could not take place, because north of 30 ° N the water is too cold for reef-forming corals (Kure is at 28.5 ° N).


Nihoa and Necker bear evidence of early Hawaiian settlement, but were uninhabited at the time of discovery by Europeans. The islands do not have a permanent population today, but the Midway Islands have around 40 residents, mostly scientific staff.

natural reserve

Map of the reserve from 1909

Because of the dramatic decline in bird populations all northwestern Hawaiian Islands were except Midway's US President already on February 3, 1909 Theodore Roosevelt bird sanctuary Hawaiian Islands Bird Reservation explained. The Midway Islands became part of the Pacific Island Wildlife Refuge Complex on October 31, 1996, after the withdrawal of the military .

After the island chain and its surrounding waters were declared a National Marine Sanctuary in 2002, now including Midways, George W. Bush proclaimed it to be Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument on June 15, 2006 . The National Monument initially covered more than 362,000 km². In 2016, Barack Obama enlarged the protected area to 1.5 million km². The islands may only be entered for scientific purposes with the special permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service .

See also

Web links

Commons : Northwestern Hawaiian Islands  - Collection of images, videos, and audio files


  • David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton: The Other Hawaii. National Geographic Germany, G + J Verlag, Oct. 2005, pp. 136–56.

Individual evidence

  1. a b CIA World Factbook - Midway Atoll (English)
  2. John Rooney, Pal Wessel, Ronald Hoeke, Jonathan Weiss, Jason Baker, Frank Parrish, Charles Fletcher, Joseph Chojnacki, Michael Garcia, Russell Brainard, Peter Vroom: Geology and geomorphology of coral reefs in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. In: BM Riegl, RE Dodge (Ed.): Coral Reefs of the World. Vol 1: Coral Reefs of the USA. Springer 2008, pp. 519–571, doi : 10.1007 / 978-1-4020-6847-8_13 (alternative full text in manuscript form: School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology )