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Haleakala volcano on the Island of Maui, Hawaii

Today’s feedback comes from BH of Australia, asking about the geology of Maui Island, Hawaii, where he recently visited. It is answered by CMI geologist .

Image courtesy Mikeo, Haleakala-crater
Haleakala volcano on the Island of Maui
My wife and I were recently on the island of Maui in Hawaii and went to the top of the Haleakala volcano. We read the general evolution explanations of the shape and structure of the volcano. From my observations these explanations didn’t stack up. Consequently I am wondering if you are able to help with a more credible explanation of why the two sections of the volcano sides are missing.
Thank you,

Hi BH,

Whenever I need to investigate a new geological location such as Maui, I begin researching what mainstream geologists have reported. In this case, I found quite a deal of information on the web about Maui and the Haleakala volcano, including one by John Sinton of the University of Hawaii about the Geologic History of Maui.1 It seems to have been written about 1980. I suspect that the interpretive signs were based on the sort of information described in this report.

When I read geological reports such as these it is first necessary to reinterpret the dates that are quoted. I’ve set out my thinking in the table below to give you a rough idea of how I do this. Other creation geologists may have a slightly different take on things, but this is the way I approach it. Note that this table provides a preliminary reinterpretation. For each specific location all dates would need to be re-evaluated according to local geological characteristics.

Preliminary reinterpretation of quoted geological dates into biblical time-scale

Uniformitarian ‘age’ Uniformitarian names Biblical event Biblical age
4,000 to 65 million years ago Archaean to Cretaceous Noah’s floodwaters rising First 150 days of the Flood, approximately 4,500 years ago
65 to 2.5 million years ago Paleogene and Neogene (Previously called Tertiary) Noah’s floodwaters receding Last 220 days of the Flood
2.5 million to 22,000 years ago Approximately early Pleistocene Post-Flood Ice Age building up to peak (maximum) For approximately 500 years after the Flood.
22,000 years to 6,000 years ago Approximately late Pleistocene Post-Flood Ice Age melting back For approximately 200 years after the Ice Age peak.
6,000 years ago to present Approximately Holocene Post post-Flood Ice Age Since approximately 3800 years ago.

So when I look at what the mainstream geologists say, I reinterpret their dates in my head in line with the above table. Then I look at the geographical location and the physical descriptions of the geology to see if they make sense in that setting. If there are any puzzling features that don’t seem to fit I look at them in more detail. It may mean that there is something wrong with the description of the feature by the mainstream geologist, who has allowed his beliefs to influence his interpretation of what he reports. Or it could be that my preliminary reinterpretation of the dating according to the above table is the problem, and the timing of geological units needs to be adjusted. This is necessary because there is not a one-to-one connection between the geological column and biblical history, and so the above table is a preliminary first pass only. (See The geological column is a general order.)

Examples of puzzling features would be glacial deposits, or desert dunes that appear to have been deposited during the Flood. In these two examples, when we look at the interpretations we typically discover that they are not glacial or desert deposits, but a result of enormous watery catastrophe (see Kelp dropstones, Shifting sands, and Startling evidence for Noah’s Flood: Footprints and sand ‘dunes’ in a Grand Canyon sandstone!). Other examples would be of large-scale sedimentary deposits that appear to have been deposited post Flood, and have subsequently been greatly eroded. In this case it may mean that the timing of deposit as cited by mainstream geologists is incorrect, and that it needs to be reassigned so that it fits into the first ‘half’ of the Flood.

Geological map of Maui Island (from Sinton, ref. 1). 

With this in mind, I looked at the geological description of Maui and the Haleakala volcano in the above cited report, and as described in other locations on the internet. The geological map of the island from that report is reproduced here. Geologists interpret these islands as being very ‘late’ geologically; the oldest dates shown on that report are Tertiary, i.e. older than 2.5 million years, but most features are said to be younger than that. From these long-age ‘dates’ and with the guidance of the above table it looks like the island formed post Flood. That would be consistent with the physical shape of the islands, in that they stand up prominently from the ocean floor. The Haleakala volcano is still active.

Of course, the quoted dates would need to be adjusted to much lower values, so that all are less than 4,500 years, which is the approximate date for the global Flood. From the description of the geology, and of its geographical setting, there would have been times when the volcano was submerged and other times when it was above water. This would impact erosion and deposition of material, and the geological report describes erosional surfaces and sedimentary deposits. The report also mentions that the volcano was once much higher but some time ago it collapsed into a caldera.2 Presumably that is the reason why sections of the side are missing.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory published a report3 about the youngest lava flow on East Maui, which highlights the difference between eyewitness reports and circumstantial dating methods, in this case carbon-14 dating. People questioned in 1841 about the age of the flow stated that their grandparents saw it. Consequently it had been assigned a date of AD1790. However, radiocarbon ages from the late 1990s from charcoal beneath the flows at La Perouse Bay gives an age hundreds of years older, which would mean they would have been emplaced sometime between AD1480 and 1600.

In summary, from my brief perusal of the published geological material about Maui Island, there does not appear to be anything contradictory or puzzling when this is interpreted as forming in the post-Flood period.

All the best,

Tas Walker
Scientist, writer, speaker

References and notes

  1. Sinton, J.M., Geologic History of Maui, ~1980; Return to text.
  2. A caldera is large circular depression formed by volcanic action. It’s analogous to a cauldron, or cooking pot, and usually forms when a large underground magma chamber empties its lava onto the surface, and the overlying land collapses into the chamber forming a circular depression. Return to text.
  3. Youngest lava flows on East Maui probably older than AD 1790, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, 9 September, 1999; Return to text.
Sinton, J.M., Geologic History of Maui, ~1980;
A caldera is large circular depression formed by volcanic action. It’s analogous to a cauldron, or cooking pot, and usually forms when a large underground magma chamber empties its lava onto the surface, and the overlying land collapses into the chamber forming a circular depression.
Youngest lava flows on East Maui probably older than AD 1790, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, 9 September, 1999; 

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Readers’ comments
Vern R., United States, 11 January 2015
I read an article a few years ago that stated the tallest mountains in the world would be the mountains that make up the Hawaiian Islands. They were going from the sea floor to the top of the mountains. That would be from the continual eruptions over the last 4500 years would it not?
Tas Walker responds
Yes. This article about Paricutin shows the growth of volcanic mountains depends on how rapidly the lava is emplaced.