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The Hawaiian Islands (Hawaiian: Nā Moku o Hawai‘i) are an archipelago of eight major volcanic islands, several atolls, and numerous smaller islets in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) from the island of Hawaiʻi in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll. Formerly called the Sandwich Islands, the present name for the archipelago is derived from the name of its largest island, Hawaiʻi.
Mokupuni o Hawai‘i
|North Pacific Ocean
The archipelago sits on the Pacific Plate. The islands are exposed peaks of a great undersea mountain range known as the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain, formed by volcanic activity over a hotspot in the Earth's mantle. The islands are about 1,860 miles (3,000 km) from the nearest continent and are part of the Polynesia subregion of Oceania.
The U.S. state of Hawaii occupies the archipelago almost in its entirety (including the mostly uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands), with the sole exception of Midway Atoll (a United States Minor Outlying Island). Hawaii is the only U.S. state that is situated entirely on an archipelago, and the only state not geographically connected with North America. The Northwestern islands (sometimes called the Leeward Islands) and surrounding seas are protected as a National Monument and World Heritage Site.
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