The Hawaiian Islands, once known as the Sandwich Islands, form an archipelago of 19 islands and atolls, numerous smaller islets, and undersea seamounts trending northwest by southeast in the North Pacific Ocean between latitudes 19° N and 29° N. The archipelago takes its name from the largest island in the group and extends some 1,500 miles (2,400 km) from the Island of Hawaiʻi in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll. Excluding Midway, which is an unincorporated territory of the United States, the Hawaiian Islands form the U.S. State of Hawaii.
This archipelago represents the 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. At about 1,860 miles (3,000 km) from the nearest continent, the Hawaiian Island archipelago is the most isolated grouping of islands on Earth.
The climate of Hawaii is typical for a tropical area, although temperatures and humidity tend to be a bit less extreme than other tropical locales due to the constant trade winds blowing from the east. Summer highs are usually in the upper 80s°F, (around 31°C) during the day and mid 70s, (around 24 °C) at night. Winter temperatures during the day are usually in the low to mid 80s, (around 28 °C) and (at low elevation) seldom dipping below the mid 60s (18 °C) at night.
Snow, although not usually associated with tropics, falls at the higher elevations of Mauna Kea (13,796 feet/ 4,205 meters) and Mauna Loa on the Big Island in some winter months. Snow only rarely falls on Maui’s Haleakala. Mount Waiʻaleʻale (Waiʻaleʻale), on the island of Kauai, is notable for rainfall, as it has the second highest average annual rainfall on Earth, about 460 inches (38 ft. 4 in., or 11.7 m). Most of Hawaii has only two seasons: Summer from May to October, and Winter from October to April.
Local climates vary considerably on each island, grossly divisible into windward (Koʻolau) and leeward (Kona) areas based upon location relative to the higher mountains. Windward sides face the Northeast Trades and receive much more rainfall; leeward sides are drier and sunnier, with less rain and less cloud cover. This fact is utilized by the tourist industry, which concentrates resorts on sunny leeward coasts.
Tiger Sharks vs. Other Sharks
In Hawai‘i, tiger sharks are often identified as being responsible for incidents resulting in serious or fatal injuries. Identification can be based on victim or witness descriptions of the shark, or on physical evidence, such as tooth fragments or bite marks.
Throughout the world, tiger sharks are considered one of the three most dangerous shark species. As far as the other two are concerned, white sharks are rare in Hawaiian waters, and bull sharks do not occur in Hawai‘i at all.
Tiger sharks are considered particularly dangerous because of their size, and their indiscriminate feeding behavior. They will eat almost anything, and often feed on objects at the water’s surface. Although it’s never been proven, some bites on people may be the result of investigatory behavior; the shark bites an object (in this case a person) to determine whether it is an acceptable food source.
Although tiger sharks may be the most dangerous of Hawaiian sharks, other species have been known to bite people, usually with much less serious results. But as mentioned above, sharks have very sharp teeth, and even small sharks can cause significant tissue damage to a person.