1868 Hawaii earthquake

The 1868 Hawaii earthquake was the largest recorded in the history of Hawaiʻi island,[3] with an estimated magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter magnitude scale and a maximum Mercalli intensity of X (Extreme). The earthquake occurred at 4 p.m. local time on April 2, 1868 and caused a landslide and tsunami that led to 77 deaths. The aftershock sequence for this event has continued up to the present day.[4]

1868 Hawaii earthquake
1868 Hawaii earthquake is located in Hawaii
1868 Hawaii earthquake
Local dateApril 2, 1868
Local time16:00
Magnitude7.9 ML
Epicenter19°12′N 155°30′W / 19.2°N 155.5°WCoordinates: 19°12′N 155°30′W / 19.2°N 155.5°W
Areas affectedHawaii
Total damageLimited [1]
Max. intensityX (Extreme) [1]
Casualties77 killed [1][2]


The island of Hawaiʻi (commonly called the "Big Island") is the currently active volcanic center of the Hawaiian Islands formed over the Hawaii hotspot. The two active volcanoes on the Big Island are Kīlauea and Mauna Loa with a newer submarine volcano forming the Loihi Seamount to the southeast of the island. Continued growth of the southeastern part of the island is accompanied by major slumping and southeastward movement of the flanks of the two volcanoes.[5]

This flank displacement is linked to extension within the rift zones associated with both of the active volcanoes, the Mauna Loa and Kīlauea rifts. From the interpretation of seismic reflection data, it has been proposed that the southeastward displacement takes place on a decollement surface near the top of the oceanic crust. The slumping is thought to affect only the upper part of the flank as the amount of shortening observed in the toe thrust zone is much larger than that observed in the extensional faults associated with the slumps, but matches well with estimates of extension within the volcanic rift systems.[6]

Selected Mercalli Intensities
MMI Locations
X (Extreme) Hilo, Kilauea, Nīnole, Pahala, Punaluu
VIII (Severe) Kohala
VII (Very strong) Kealakekua, Waipio
V (Moderate) Honolulu, Kauai, Lanai
U.S. Earthquake Intensity Database, National Geophysical Data Center

The Hilina Slump

The Hilina Slump is the largest of the active slumps around the Hawaiian islands. The 'backscarp' to the slump is formed by the Hilina extensional fault system, which is known to have moved in both the 1868 event and the 1975 Kalapana earthquake.[7]


A firsthand description of the events was written by Frederick S. Lyman, a goat and sheep rancher at Keaīwa near the epicenter of the events.[8] A sequence of foreshocks began on March 27, with tremors every few minutes. They increased steadily in intensity, including one on March 28 that had an estimated magnitude of 7.1. The sequence continued until 4 p.m. on April 2, when the mainshock occurred.[3] One interpretation of this sequence of events is that they were related to the movement of two separate landslide structures on the south side of the island. The first, triggered by an eruption that began in the upper part of Mauna Loa's southwest rift, involved movement of a block that extended seawards for at least 12 miles (19 km). The tremors over the next four days are regarded as aftershocks of the 7.1 event caused by this movement. The mainshock involved movement of the entire southern flank of Kīlauea on the basal detachment at an estimated depth of 9 kilometers (5.6 mi),[9] and was probably triggered by the earlier event.[3]

The aftershock sequence has continued for over 140 years until the present day. The aftershock frequency fits a modified Omori (power law) for the first few decades and an exponential function thereafter.[4]


Wooden houses were knocked off their foundations in Keaīwa, Punaluʻu Beach and Nīnole, while thatched houses supported by posts in the same areas were torn to shreds.[10] The earthquake demolished nearly every stone wall and house within the Kaʻū district in an instant.[3] At Waiʻōhinu, a large stone church built by Reverend John D. Paris collapsed, and in Hilo the shaking destroyed the few stone buildings and most walls.[10]


A tsunami was caused by coastal subsidence associated with reactivation of the Hilina slump, triggered by the earthquake. At Kapapala the land subsided by as much as 2 m and formerly dry land was flooded to a depth of 1.5 m.[10] The tsunami on the Kaʻū and Puna coasts caused major destruction at Honuapo, Keauhou and Punaluʻu. The greatest damage was caused at Keauhou, where a wave height of 12–15 m was reported. All houses and warehouses were destroyed and 46 people were drowned.[10]

Many villages, such as ʻĀpua, were never resettled.[11]


The earthquake triggered landslides over a wide area. The largest was a mudslide 3 km wide and 9 m thick, that swept down the flanks of Mauna Loa at Kapapala. It swept away trees, animals and people, causing 31 fatalities.[10]

Effect on volcanic eruptions

Kīlauea was the most affected by the lateral displacement associated with the earthquake, as it did not have another major eruption until 1919.[3] It also disrupted the magma system beneath Mauna Loa, as is shown both in reduced lava volumes and an abrupt change in the lava chemistry.[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b c National Geophysical Data Center / World Data Service (NGDC/WDS) (1972), Significant Earthquake Database (Data Set), National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA, doi:10.7289/V5TD9V7K
  2. ^ Stover, C. W.; Coffman, J. L. (1993), Seismicity of the United States, 1568–1989 (Revised), U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1527, United States Government Printing Office, p. 207
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Great Ka'u Earthquake of 1868". Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. April 1, 1994. Retrieved December 11, 2010.
  4. ^ a b Klein, F.W.; Wright T. (2008). "Exponential decline of aftershocks of the M7.9 1868 great Kau earthquake, Hawaii, through the 20th century". Journal of Geophysical Research. American Geophysical Union. 113 (B9): B09310.1–B09310.11. Bibcode:2008JGRB..11309310K. doi:10.1029/2007JB005411.
  5. ^ Bryan, C.J.; Johnson C.E. (1991). "Block tectonics of the island of Hawaii from a focal mechanism analysis of basal slip". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. Seismological Society of America. 81 (2): 491–507. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
  6. ^ Morgan, J.K.; Moore G.F.; Hills D.J. & Leslie S. (2000). "Overthrusting and sediment accretion along Kīlauea's mobile south flank, Hawaii: Evidence for volcanic spreading from marine seismic reflection data". Geology. The Geological Society of America. 28 (7): 667–670. Bibcode:2000Geo....28..667M. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(2000)28<667:OASAAK>2.0.CO;2. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
  7. ^ Cannon, E.C.; Bürgmann R. & Owen S.E. (2001). "Shallow Normal Faulting and Block Rotation Associated with the 1975 Kalapana Earthquake, Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. Seismological Society of America. 91 (6): 1553–1562. Bibcode:2001BuSSA..91.1553C. doi:10.1785/0120000072. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
  8. ^ Dana, J. D; Coan, T (July 1868). "Recent Eruption of Mauna Loa and Kilauea, Hawaii". American Journal of Science and Arts. American Journal of Science. 96 (136): 105–123. Bibcode:1868AmJS...46..105D. doi:10.2475/ajs.s2-46.136.105. Retrieved December 11, 2010.
  9. ^ Max Wyss (1988). "A proposed source model for the great Kau, Hawaii, earthquake of 1868". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. Seismological Society of America. 78 (4): 1450–1462. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
  10. ^ a b c d e USGS. "Ka'u District, Island of Hawaii 1868 04 03 02:25 UTC (04/02/1868 local) Magnitude 7.9, Largest Earthquake in Hawaii". Archived from the original on 2016-11-10. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  11. ^ Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel Hoyt Elbert and Esther T. Mookini (2004). "lookup of Apua ". in Place Names of Hawai'i. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved December 11, 2010.
  12. ^ Tilling, R.I.; Rhodes J.M.; Sparks J.W.; Lockwood J.P. & Lipman P.W. (1987). "Disruption of the Mauna Loa Magma System by the 1868 Hawaiian Earthquake: Geochemical Evidence". Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 235 (4785): 196–199. Bibcode:1987Sci...235..196T. doi:10.1126/science.235.4785.196. PMID 17778633. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
1975 Hawaii earthquake

The 1975 Hawaii earthquake occurred on November 29 with a moment magnitude of 7.4 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of VIII (Severe). The shock affected several of the Hawaiian Islands and resulted in the deaths of two people and up to 28 injured. Significant damage occurred in the southern part of the Big Island totaling $4–4.1 million and it also triggered a small brief eruption of Kilauea volcano.

The event generated a large tsunami that was as high as 47 feet (14 m) on Hawai'i island and was detected in Alaska, California, Japan, Okinawa, Samoa, and on Johnston and Wake Islands. Significant changes to the shorelines along the southern coast of the Big Island with subsidence of 12 feet (3.7 m) was observed, causing some areas to be permanently submerged. The source of the event was the Hilina Slump, which was also responsible for the more powerful 1868 Hawaii earthquake and tsunami.

Apua, Hawaii

ʻĀpua was an ancient village in the Puna district on the southern coast of the Island of Hawaiʻi in the Hawaiian Islands. A small fishing village was located at about 19°15′41″N 155°11′46″W, an elevation about 59 feet (18 m) above sea level.

The village was destroyed by a tsunami following the April 2, 1868 Hawaii earthquake and never resettled.ʻĀpua Point, just south of the former village site, has a backcountry campground for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. There is no drinking water nor other facilities at the site. Weather and surf conditions can be very dangerous. The trail crosses both old and new lava flows from the active volcano.

Charles Nichols Spencer

Charles Nichols Spencer (1837 – March 6, 1893) was the Ministrer of Finance for the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. He was one of Kalākaua's Cabinet Ministers at the time of the king's January 20, 1891 death, and the longest hold-over into Liliʻuokalani's Cabinet Ministers, serving June 17, 1890 – Sept 12, 1892.

Charles de Varigny

Charles Victor Crosnier de Varigny (November 25, 1829 – November 9, 1899) was a French adventurer, diplomat, translator and writer.

He was born November 25, 1829 in Versailles.

He was educated at Lycée Bourbon. He came with his father to the California Gold Rush. He married Louise Constantin (1827–1894) August 14, 1852 in San Francisco, and worked for a French language newspaper, L'echo du Pacifique founded by Étienne Derbec.He and his family arrived on the Restless from San Francisco February 18, 1855 in Honolulu. He accepted a position as translator to Louis Emile Perrin the Consul (diplomatic rank below that of ambassador) from France to the Kingdom of Hawaii.

he became friends with Scot Robert Crichton Wyllie who spoke several languages due to his travel throughout South America and the Pacific. At that time France and Great Britain were allies in the Crimean War.

In 1857 he traveled to the island of Hawaiʻi with German Hermann von Holt. They toured Kīlauea volcano, and visited the rancher John Palmer Parker. They hired the guide "Jack" Purdy who told the story of earlier adventurer Julius Brenchley. Purdy then led them in an ascent of Mauna Kea, the highest mountain in the Pacific.When Perrin died in 1862 he became acting Consul from France.

In July 1863 he visited the island of Kauaʻi, including a visit of the Princeville sugarcane plantation owned by Wyllie.On December 7, 1863 he was appointed to the Privy Council for King Kamehameha V and on 14 to become the Minister of Finance. Immediately the new king caused a political crisis by refusing to take an oath to the constitution. After a constitutional convention did not agree with his proposal, Kamehameha V proclaimed his own 1864 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Varigny generally supported the new constitution, which gave both the king and cabinet ministers more power, and limited voters with property requirements.From 1864 through 1868 he served in the House of Nobles of the legislature.

On January 21, 1865 he was appointed to the Bureau of Immigration and Bureau of Public Instruction.After the death of Wyllie Varigny became Minister of Foreign Affairs on December 21, 1865.

One of his first acts was to call off the efforts of John Bowring for negotiating a three-way treaty between France, Great Britain, and the United States. Varigny instead favored an individual reciprocity treaty with each country.Charles Coffin Harris had negotiated a tentative treaty with American Commissioner Edward Moody McCook. However, in the meantime the USS Lackawanna under Captain William Reynolds had arrived February 9, 1867 and refused to leave in response to rumors that France was going to take over the islands. Harris lodged a protest to Secretary of State William Henry Seward. Seward had just completed the Alaska Purchase. Rumors circulated that the U.S. was ready to invade, and some Americans on the islands indicated they would support such a move. On August 28, 1867 Reynolds claimed possession of Midway Atoll. The Captain's clerk leaked letters to the Hawaiian government alleging a conspiracy for starting a rebellion. Varigny forwarded the letters to the U.S. State Department, who then requested to have the clerk arrested.In March 1868 an increase in volcanic activity resulted in the 1868 Hawaii earthquake and resulting tsunami that caused damage throughout the islands. Varigny helped organize bringing aid to the victims. On May 6, 1868 the Lackawanna sailed back to San Francisco and the clerk was court-martialed. He was found guilty, but quietly had his sentence suspended, probably to avoid any embarrassing publicity.Later in 1868 he returned to France. He tried to negotiate treaties between Hawaii and European powers, but the conflicts leading up to the Franco-Prussian War prevented much progress. A short treaty with Russia was signed June 19, 1869. He also negotiated treaties with the North German Confederation and Denmark, but these were rejected by the Hawaiian government because they did not allow for any other reciprocity agreements.

His leave of absence expired in November 1869. He asked to continue as envoy, but by the fall of 1870 as relieved of any connection with Hawaii. Harris took over the ministry of foreign affairs, while John Mott-Smith replaced Harris as minister of finance.

He published a series of articles about his voyages starting in 1873. He then expanded these stories into a book about his 14 years in the islands, followed by others about his experiences in California and other parts of the Pacific.He died November 9, 1899 in Montmorency, Val-d'Oise near Paris.

His son Henry Charles de Varigny was born 1855 and became a biologist. Henry's writings included a biography of Charles Darwin

and other works discussing evolution. Henry died in 1934.

He also had two daughters.

Frederick S. Lyman

Frederick Schwartz Lyman (July 25, 1837 – April 14, 1918) was a surveyor, rancher, judge, and politician on Hawaiʻi Island.

List of earthquakes in the United States

The following is a list of notable earthquakes and/or tsunamis which had their epicenter in areas that are now part of the United States with the latter affecting areas of the United States. Those in italics were not part of the United States when the event occurred.

Earthquake swarms which affected the United States:

1962–71 Denver earthquake swarm

Enola earthquake swarm

2008 Reno earthquakes

Guy-Greenbrier earthquake swarm

2009–present Oklahoma earthquake swarmsEarthquakes which affected the United States but whose epicenters were outside the United States borders:

1925 Charlevoix–Kamouraska earthquake – magnitude 6.2 earthquake, no injuries or fatalities anywhere

2010 Baja California earthquake (Mexico near S California) – magnitude 7.2 earthquake, 4 fatalities and 100 injuries, none in the United StatesEarthquakes which did not affect the United States directly, but caused tsunamis which did:

1960 Valdivia earthquake and tsunami – magnitude 9.5 earthquake, between 2200 and 6000 fatalities, including 61 in Hilo, HI

2006 Kuril Islands earthquake and tsunami – magnitude 8.3 earthquake, no injuries or fatalities anywhere

2009 Samoa earthquake and tsunami – magnitude 8.0 earthquake with an epicenter 120 miles (190 km) southwest of American Samoa generated tsunami waves up to 16 feet (5 m), killing 34 people in American Samoa and causing extensive damage

2010 Chile earthquake and tsunami – magnitude 8.8 earthquake, ~525 fatalities and unknown number of injuries, none in the United States

2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami – magnitude 9.0 earthquake, 15,850–28,000 fatalities and 6,011 injured, one fatality and unknown number of injuries in the United States

2012 Haida Gwaii earthquake – magnitude 7.8 earthquake with an epicenter on Moresby Island in British Columbia, the second largest Canadian earthquake ever recorded by a seismometer, over 100,000 people were evacuated to higher ground in the state of Hawai'i

List of historical earthquakes

Historical earthquakes is a list of significant earthquakes known to have occurred prior to the beginning of the 20th century. As the events listed here occurred before routine instrumental recordings, they rely mainly on the analysis of written sources. There is often significant uncertainty in location and magnitude and sometimes date for each earthquake. The number of fatalities is also often highly uncertain, particularly for the older events.

List of tsunamis

This article lists notable tsunamis, which are sorted by the date and location that the tsunami occurred.

Because of seismic and volcanic activity associated with tectonic plate boundaries along the Pacific Ring of Fire, tsunamis occur most frequently in the Pacific Ocean, but are a worldwide natural phenomenon. They are possible wherever large bodies of water are found, including inland lakes, where they can be caused by landslides and glacier calving. Very small tsunamis, non-destructive and undetectable without specialized equipment, occur frequently as a result of minor earthquakes and other events.

Around 1600 BCE, a tsunami caused by the eruption of Thira devastated the Minoan civilization on Crete and related cultures in the Cyclades, as well as in areas on the Greek mainland facing the eruption, such as the Argolid.

The oldest recorded tsunami occurred in 479 BCE. It destroyed a Persian army that was attacking the town of Potidaea in Greece.As early as 426 BCE, the Greek historian Thucydides inquired in his book History of the Peloponnesian War (3.89.1–6) about the causes of tsunamis. He argued that such events could only be explained as a consequence of ocean earthquakes, and could see no other possible causes.

Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa ( or ; Hawaiian: [ˈmɐwnə ˈlowə]; English: Long Mountain) is one of five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii in the U.S. state of Hawaiʻi in the Pacific Ocean. The largest subaerial volcano in both mass and volume, Mauna Loa has historically been considered the largest volcano on Earth, dwarfed only by Tamu Massif. It is an active shield volcano with relatively gentle slopes, with a volume estimated at approximately 18,000 cubic miles (75,000 km3), although its peak is about 125 feet (38 m) lower than that of its neighbor, Mauna Kea. Lava eruptions from Mauna Loa are silica-poor and very fluid, and they tend to be non-explosive.

Mauna Loa has probably been erupting for at least 700,000 years, and may have emerged above sea level about 400,000 years ago. The oldest-known dated rocks are not older than 200,000 years. The volcano's magma comes from the Hawaii hotspot, which has been responsible for the creation of the Hawaiian island chain over tens of millions of years. The slow drift of the Pacific Plate will eventually carry Mauna Loa away from the hotspot within 500,000 to one million years from now, at which point it will become extinct.

Mauna Loa's most recent eruption occurred from March 24 to April 15, 1984. No recent eruptions of the volcano have caused fatalities, but eruptions in 1926 and 1950 destroyed villages, and the city of Hilo is partly built on lava flows from the late 19th century. Because of the potential hazards it poses to population centers, Mauna Loa is part of the Decade Volcanoes program, which encourages studies of the world's most dangerous volcanoes. Mauna Loa has been monitored intensively by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory since 1912. Observations of the atmosphere are undertaken at the Mauna Loa Observatory, and of the Sun at the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory, both located near the mountain's summit. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park covers the summit and the southeastern flank of the volcano, and also incorporates Kīlauea, a separate volcano.


Naihe (died 1831) was the chief orator and councilor during the founding of the Kingdom of Hawaii. A champion athlete in his youth, he negotiated for peace at several critical times and helped preserve the remains of several ancient leaders.

Nīnole, Hawaii

Nīnole (also spelled Hinole, Ninole, or Ninoli) is the name of two unincorporated communities on the island of Hawaiʻi in Hawaii County, Hawaii, United States. In the Hawaiian language Nīnole means "bending". Ninole also has the highest percentage of people of Italian descent in Hawaii.

Titus Coan

Titus Coan (February 1, 1801 – December 1, 1881) was an American minister from New England who spent most of his life as a Christian missionary to the Hawaiian Islands.

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