Brandon Specktor

Poking out of the sea 590 miles (952 kilometers) northwest of Honolulu, Hawaii, two barren peaks rear their heads. The little pinnacles, which stand about 170 feet (52 meters) above sea level at their highest point, bely a monstrous mountain of ancient magma beneath them. Turns out, these two unassuming nubbins are actually the tips of Pūhāhonu — the single largest volcano on Earth, scientists have found.

Pūhāhonu — meaning “turtle rising for breath” in Hawaiian — is part of the long chain of undersea mountains and volcanoes that stretch from the Hawaiian Islands to the eastern edge of Russia. Many of the chain’s 120-or-so volcanoes are long dead and buried beneath the waves, though the relatively young peaks that make up the Hawaiian Islands still tower over the land (and, occasionally, blow their tops).

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