Civil Beat

Big Island

The "Big Island" of Hawaii is, as the nickname implies, the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii has 4,028 square miles of land and is more than five and a half times the size of the next largest island, Maui. Hawaii is the most eastern and southern island in the main chain and also the largest island in the Unites States.

In 2013, according to the U.S. Census and Hawaii State Data Center, Hawaii had a population of 190,821, nearly 14 percent of the state's total population.

Hawaii is part of the state's 2nd Congressional District represented by Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard since 2012.

Mauna Kea on Hawaii – a dormant volcano – is considered the tallest mountain in the world when measured from the seafloor to summit at over 33,000 feet.

Vog – volcanic smog – is a form of air pollution caused by a reaction between the gases from erupting volcanoes and oxygen, moisture and sunlight. One of Hawaii's active volcanoes, Kilauea, saw its sulfur dioxide emissions increase when a new vent opened on March 12, 2008.

Economy

According to U.S. Census data released in 2010 (the most recent full census), Hawaii County had the lowest median income level in the county and the highest unemployment rate. Abou t one-third of households were also receiving Social Security checks.

The most common jobs in Hawaii were those in sales in office work, management and professional occupations, with over half of the island's population finding work in these areas. Thirteen percent of residents worked in construction, extraction or maintenance and repair work. Finally, six percent were in production, transportation or material moving.

About 15 percent of Hawaii's residents worked for the federal, state, or local government. About 10 percent were self-employed and the rest were in private industry.

The vast majority — about 90 percent — of people 25 years or older on the Big Island had at least graduated from high school. This rate was tied with Oahu for the highest percentage of high school graduates in the state. Just under one-third of residents had a bachelor's degree or higher.

Land

The Big Island is the largest island in the state of Hawaii. It has 4,028 miles of square land and is larger than all of the other major islands combined.

Hawaii was built from five separate volcanoes: Kohala (extinct), Mauna Kea (dormant), Hualalai (dormant), Mauna Loa (active) and Kilauea (active, continuously erupting since 1983). Due to the Mauna Loa and Kilauea eruptions, Hawaii is still a growing island.

Hawaii's most prominent peak is Mauna Kea. When measured from the seafloor to its summit, it is the tallest mountain on Earth at over 33,000 feet. Measured above sea level, it reaches 13,803 feet.

History

The precise date of Polynesian settlers arriving in Hawaii is unknown but is estimated to be between 800-1000 AD. They came to Hawaii in double-hulled sailing canoes, using the stars to navigate, from the Marquesas to the Hawaiian Islands. Others are thought to have sailed from Samoa, Tahiti and possibly Tonga.

After the arrival of Captain James Cook in January of 1787, the islands would undergo an intense period of change.

Kamehameha, a young chief from Kohala, would witness Cook's death at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island. He would then go on to unite all the islands after a long campaign of war beginning in Hawaii and ending on Kauai.

Kamehameha would become "Kamehameha the Great" for the accomplishment and would thereafter establish diplomatic ties with Westerners.

The Kingdom of Hawaii was officially established in 1810 under his rule. Kamehameha named the islands after his homeland of Hawaii.

In 1893, a group of U.S. annexationists, led by Lorrin A. Thurston, fabricated a story that Americans were under attack in Hawaii. On Jan. 17 of that year, Marines from the U.S.S. Boston aided the annexationists in the successful overthrow of the monarchy.

Hawaii would then become a territory of the United States and in 1959 would adopt statehood.

Sugarcane, as with many of the other Hawaiian Islands, was the backbone of Hawaii's economy beginning in the 19th Century. However, by the middle of the 1950's, the industry began to downsize and would disappear entirely before 2000.

Today, the vast majority of Hawaii's economy is stimulated through tourism. Resorts and hotels lie primarily along the western coast of the island and provide thousands of jobs to local residents.

One of the major draws for tourists is the Volcanoes National Park. Kiluea, a world-famous volcano, has been continuously spewing lava since 1983.

Hawaii Island has two main population centers — Kona on the west coast and Hilo in the eastern part of the island. Hilo hosts the Merrie Monarch Festival, a weeklong celebration of Hawaiian culture and arts including a prestigious hula competition.

This Stunning Big Island Valley Is Drawing Bigger Crowds — And Controversy Paula Dobbyn/Civil Beat/2022

This Stunning Big Island Valley Is Drawing Bigger Crowds — And Controversy

Concerns about public safety and disrespect of cultural sites and private property are mounting, but so far a workable solution has been elusive.

Kamehameha Schools Wants To Build A Culturally Sensitive Boutique Resort On The Big Island Kamehameha Schools/2022

Kamehameha Schools Wants To Build A Culturally Sensitive Boutique Resort On The Big Island

Members of the public are concerned about increased traffic and tourist pressure on Keauhou Bay as well as the proposed removal of a popular beach volleyball court.

Big Island Residents Sue Mayor And Public Works Director Over Waipio Road Closure Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Big Island Residents Sue Mayor And Public Works Director Over Waipio Road Closure

The complaint says Mayor Mitch Roth relied on a flawed engineering report that exaggerated the risks of falling rocks to pedestrians and motorists.

Waipio Valley Road Closure Prompts Community Organizing, Legal Action Courtesy: Ed Johnston

Waipio Valley Road Closure Prompts Community Organizing, Legal Action

The road closure, which took many by surprise, has provoked emotional divisions among diverse groups of people who use the valley.

Homeless Survey Reveals Pandemic Effects On Neighbor Islands Brittany Lyte/Civil Beat/2021

Homeless Survey Reveals Pandemic Effects On Neighbor Islands

The 2022 point-in-time count shows a decrease in homelessness on Maui, while the Big Island and Kauai saw an uptick in people living on the streets or in shelters.

Authorities Investigate Death Of Big Island Tour Boat Crew Member Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2015

Authorities Investigate Death Of Big Island Tour Boat Crew Member

Theresa Butts, 54, was killed while working aboard the 40-foot passenger vessel Uhane Nui O Naia, operated by the tour company Sunlight on Water, based in Kailua-Kona.

An Important Big Island Clean And Sober House Is Forced To Close Tim Wright/Civil Beat/2022

An Important Big Island Clean And Sober House Is Forced To Close

Laukapu House has been a refuge from the streets and addiction for seven years, serving more than 1,000 people in need, but must now vacate the property.

Hawaii Consumer Advocate Opposes Bioenergy Power Plant On Big Island Jason Armstrong/Civil Beat/2018

Hawaii Consumer Advocate Opposes Bioenergy Power Plant On Big Island

Critics say there are too many outstanding questions for the Public Utilities Commission to approve the Hu Honua project.

Big Island Mayor Touts Public Transport And Affordable Housing Projects Jason Armstrong/Civil Beat/2019

Big Island Mayor Touts Public Transport And Affordable Housing Projects

Public transportation has been expanding in Hawaii County in the past year with new bus routes, subsidized ride-sharing and other improvements.

Waipio Valley Road Closure Prompts Community Organizing, Legal Action Courtesy: Ed Johnston

Waipio Valley Road Closure Prompts Community Organizing, Legal Action

The road closure, which took many by surprise, has provoked emotional divisions among diverse groups of people who use the valley.

Homeless Survey Reveals Pandemic Effects On Neighbor Islands Brittany Lyte/Civil Beat/2021

Homeless Survey Reveals Pandemic Effects On Neighbor Islands

The 2022 point-in-time count shows a decrease in homelessness on Maui, while the Big Island and Kauai saw an uptick in people living on the streets or in shelters.

Authorities Investigate Death Of Big Island Tour Boat Crew Member Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2015

Authorities Investigate Death Of Big Island Tour Boat Crew Member

Theresa Butts, 54, was killed while working aboard the 40-foot passenger vessel Uhane Nui O Naia, operated by the tour company Sunlight on Water, based in Kailua-Kona.

An Important Big Island Clean And Sober House Is Forced To Close Tim Wright/Civil Beat/2022

An Important Big Island Clean And Sober House Is Forced To Close

Laukapu House has been a refuge from the streets and addiction for seven years, serving more than 1,000 people in need, but must now vacate the property.

Hawaii Consumer Advocate Opposes Bioenergy Power Plant On Big Island Jason Armstrong/Civil Beat/2018

Hawaii Consumer Advocate Opposes Bioenergy Power Plant On Big Island

Critics say there are too many outstanding questions for the Public Utilities Commission to approve the Hu Honua project.

Big Island Mayor Touts Public Transport And Affordable Housing Projects Jason Armstrong/Civil Beat/2019

Big Island Mayor Touts Public Transport And Affordable Housing Projects

Public transportation has been expanding in Hawaii County in the past year with new bus routes, subsidized ride-sharing and other improvements.

Big Island Mayor Asks Governor to Declare Energy Emergency Submitted

Big Island Mayor Asks Governor to Declare Energy Emergency

Citing the expectation that the price of power on the Big Island is expected to rise by 20%, Mayor Mitch Roth says an emergency declaration is warranted.

NPS: What Do You Think About Helicopter Tours In Hawaii’s National Parks? Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2020

NPS: What Do You Think About Helicopter Tours In Hawaii’s National Parks?

The federal government was supposed to make plans to reduce aircraft noise in parks two decades ago.

How An Unpaid $336 Insurance Bill Led To A Big Island Woman’s 9-Year Fight To Keep Her Home Courtesy: Eleanor Fernandes

How An Unpaid $336 Insurance Bill Led To A Big Island Woman’s 9-Year Fight To Keep Her Home

Eleanor Fernandes is one of a growing number of Americans whose reverse mortgages have unraveled, in some cases because their insurance lapsed and servicers bought much more expensive coverage on their behalf.