Group of 8 large islands and 4 minor islands, formed by the emerged peaks of an underwater volcanic chain that rises for about 730 km. from the bed of the Pacific, between the island of Niihau (22 ° N. and 160 ° W) and that of Hawaii (19 ° 30 ′ N. and 155 ° 30 ′ W). The inhabited islands of the archipelago are: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and Hawaii; then there are numerous rocky and deserted islets of no importance. Volcanic activity is greater in the SE, that is, in the large island of Hawaii, while it gradually decreases towards the northwest of the group.
According to iamaccepted, the islands are generally formed by one or more contiguous volcanic peaks, and are almost entirely made up of basic igneous rocks, joined to basalt; however, sometimes, around some of them, there are also raised coral reefs. Volcanic rocks are of two kinds: the first emission lava flows consist of very coarse material called aa, almost impassable; the subsequent castings, on the other hand, have smooth, rounded surfaces and are easily traversable. This guy, called pahoehoe somewhere provides a very compact blue building stone. More or less friable and tender tuffs have formed from the volcanic ashes, which constitute a much less good soil than that formed by the altered solid lava. In many places the soil is enriched with layers of humus; elsewhere the abundant rains have carried away in considerable quantities the soluble substances thus making the soil very poor.
Human settlement on the islands. – It seems that the first inhabitants of Hawaii came from the south, that is from Samoa; however, in the north-western islands of the group, a racial type with shorter stature seems to predominate which, according to Roland Dixon, does not occur in other places in Polynesia. It is assumed that the islands were first occupied around 500 AD. C. by the men who built the giant fish farms in Molokai. In 1100 there was another migration from the south, but then the Hawaiians remained completely isolated and with a very uncertain memory of the countries of origin. The Spaniards may have discovered the islands first, but the first authentic report remains the one reported by Cook in January 1778. He had given the group the name of Sandwich (in honor of John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich), but it was later replaced from the indigenous one. On February 14, 1779 Cook, returning to the islands, was killed on the west coast of Hawaii, in Kealakekua Bay, during a melee with the natives. Between 1790 and 1810 Kamehameha, the successor of a long series of warrior chiefs, succeeded in making himself master of all the islands; but in this period G. Vancouver landed there and in February 1794 they were spontaneously placed under the English protectorate. However, the treaty was not ratified. Kamehameha was a wise and strong governor, rightly believed to be the greatest Hawaiian. At the beginning of the 19th century the islands were frequently visited by navigators in search of sandalwood. The first American missionaries arrived there in 1820. Liberal laws on land ownership were enacted by King Kamehameha III, according to which the indigenous people largely became owners of the land on which they lived. In 1843 Captain Paulet annexed Hawaii to England, but his act was not approved and the islands regained their autonomy. In about 1850, communications began by regular steamers with San Francisco and Sydney. During the reign of Kalakaua a trade treaty was ratified with the United States and in 1876 Hawaii ceded to them, in exchange for preferential treatment, the wonderful bay of Pearl Harbor as a maritime base. In 1894 the republic was proclaimed in the islands headed by President Sanford B. Dole: in 1898, after long negotiations, they passed to the United States. Until about 1875, they were inhabited almost exclusively by indigenous Hawaiians: it seems that in 1820 there were 150,000, reduced in 1870 to about 60,000. In 1910 there were about 30,000 pure indigenous people (and 7,848 mestizos), by 1920 there were only 25,000 pure Hawaiians. Indeed, no other part of the earth has such a great mixture of races, and nowhere, as in Hawaii, can the interesting problems of racial interbreeding be studied.
In 1852, numerous Chinese were brought in to work on the sugar cane plantations, and in 1878, 2,000 natives from the Gilbert Islands arrived there. The first Japanese were introduced in 1868. Between 1878 and about 1882, 8000 Portuguese immigrated there from the islands of Madeira and the Azores. In 1896 there were about 31,000 pure Hawaiians, 24,000 Japanese, 21,000 Chinese, 15,000 Portuguese. More recently, to make up for labor shortages, workers began to be brought in from the Philippines. These have now acquired, in the sugar cane plantations, more importance than the Japanese, who instead have dedicated themselves to the large crops of pineapples. The Japanese are increasing in numbers so rapidly that it is assumed that in the 1940 elections they will probably have a majority of the voters.