Hawaii, a small archipelago in the North Pacific, named Sandwich Islands by Captain Cook after Lord Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty. The islands, twelve in number, form a rich, beautiful, and interesting chain, which runs from south-east to north-west, and lies in 19° to 22° N. lat. and 155° to 160° W. long. Their total area is 6564 sq. m., or rather smaller than Wales. The names and areas of the eight principal islands are: Hawaii (the , Owhyhee,' of Captain Cook), 4210 sq. in.; Maui, 760; Oahu, 600; Kauai, 590 ; Molokai (the ' Lepers' Island'), 270 ; Lanai, 150 ; Kahulaui, 63 ; Niihau, 97. The Hawaiian Islands lie in mid-ocean, but nearer America (2100 miles) than Asia; they consequently form a convenient station for the coaling and repairing of vessels on their way across the Pacific. The islands are of volcanic origin, with coral-reefs partly encircling most of them; the only well-protected harbour being that of Honolulu, on Oahu. The larger islands are mountainous, and contain some of the principal volcanoes, both active and extinct, in the world. The two highest mountains, Mauna-Kea and Mauna-Loa, are in the island of Hawaii, and are 13,805 and 13,675 feet high respectively. On the eastern slope of Mauna-Loa, in Hawaii, is the far-famed Kilauea, the largest active volcano in the world. It is over 4000 feet above sea-level. Its oval crater, 9 miles in circumference, is bounded by a range of cliffs, and contains a fiery lake of molten lava rising and falling like the waves of the sea. Mauna-Loa itself is an active volcano. On Maui is the crater of Haleakala, by far the largest known in the world. It is from 25 to 30 miles in circumference, from 2000 to 3000 feet deep, and is 10,032 feet above sea-level.
The Hawaiian Islands, though within the tropics, enjoy a fairly temperate climate - 90° to 52° F., or a mean of 74.3° F. Rains, brought by the north-east trade-wind, are frequent on the side of the mountains which faces that quarter, but on the other parts of the islands little rain falls, and the sky is generally cloudless. The yearly rainfall of the islands generally is about 54 inches. In Hawaii alone, on the Waimea plains, thousands of sheep of the merino breed find grazing ground; and on most of the islands, while the upland slopes of the mountains are clothed with dense forests, the lower levels spread into grassy plains rich with sugar and rice plantations. The staple food of the natives consists of poi, a thick paste made from the root of the taro plant (Arum esculentum) and raw or dried fish. The only indigenous animals are rats, mice, bats, dogs, and hogs, but others have been added by the white men. There are large numbers of semi-wild horses, and some wild dogs.
The most important trade was with Pacific whalers down to 1876, when a Reciprocity Treaty was concluded with the United States, and there was an enormous development of the sugar export ; other exports being rice, wool, molasses, tallow, and bananas. The imports consist principally of dry-goods. Nine-tenths of the trade is with the United States. On Hawaii and Maui there are telegraphs and 56 miles of railway.
The islands are said to have been discovered by Gaetano in 1542, and rediscovered in 1778 by Captain Cook, who met his death at the hands of the natives in Kealakekua (Karakakoa) Bay, 1779. Kamehameha I. formed the islands into one kingdom. Missionaries came from America in 1820, and in less than forty years they taught the whole Hawaiian people to read and write, to cipher and sew. In 1843 the independence of the kingdom was guaranteed by the French and English governments. Kalakaua, elected king in 1874, died in 1891, and was succeeded by his eldest sister, Liliuokalani, who was dethroned in January 1893, the islands next month being annexed to the United States - an annexation, however, repudiated by President Cleveland, whereupon a provisional republican government was established; but the islands were finally annexed by the United States in 1898, and in 1900 were organised as one of the territories of the republic. The total pop. of all the islands amounted in 1788 to some 200,000, and in 1900 to 153,727, of whom 29,834 were natives, and 25,750 Chinese, 61,122 Japanese, and 28,533 Europeans and Americans. The natives of the Hawaiian Archipelago belong to the brown Polynesian stock, and are a remarkably handsome race; in character indolent, joyous, and contented. Of the foreign diseases that have reduced the popu-lation, leprosy is now the most dreaded. In 1865 the island of Molokai was set apart for lepers (900 in 1900), among whom Father Damten laboured and died (1889).