Mauna Loa, the Long Mountain, has obsessed explorers, hikers and scientific expeditioners for centuries.
The allure of the monolith continues today. “I am fascinated by Mauna Loa. I have always been,” says Jessica Ferracane, spokeswoman for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Mauna Loa is the colossus of Hawaii’s volcanoes, the king or the queen by its sheer size. When people of an adventurous nature see the massive mountain, it calls out to them. They want to climb it.
Ferracane says the admiration for Mauna Loa grows when you drill down on its enormity as the largest active volcano on the planet. The U.S. Geological Survey says the total relief of Mauna Loa, from its true base on the ocean floor to its summit, is about 56,000 feet making it much higher than Mount Everest.
It covers 51% of Hawaii island. It is so hulking and heavy it depresses the ocean floor beneath its weight.
Today, with the focus on Mauna Loa’s current eruption — particularly the nightly spectacle of the orange lava fountains and the breathless TV reporters tracing the progress of the lava as it creeps toward Saddle Road — it’s easy to lose sight of the mountain itself.