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Does Larry Ellison Know His $600 Million Island Is Sinking?

One day, the sun will set for good on Lanai, Hawaii. (Viriditas)

CNN is reporting that Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle (the people who make Java), is buying 98% of Lanai, Hawaii’s sixth largest island.

According to Reuters,

‘It is my understanding that Mr. Ellison has had a long standing interest in Lanai. His passion for nature, particularly the ocean, is well known specifically in the realm of America’s Cup sailing,’ Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie said in a statement.

Hopefully Ellison’s purchase hinges more on this fondness for nature than any dreams of legacy building. Lanai is one part of the four-island cluster of Maui County, an archipelago that has been steadily sinking into the ocean over the past million or so years.

The last 1.2 million years have been hard on Hawaii. Photo: Jonathan Price, Smithsonian Institution

The four islands of Maui, Moloka`i, Lana`i, and Kaho`olawe were once all connected as a vast landmass known as Maui Nui, literally “big Maui.”

All of the Hawaiian islands were formed from a volcanically active region in the sea floor known as a hot spot, which through a series of periodic eruptions gave birth to the island chain.

However, says Smithsonian Magazine,

The islands don’t last forever. As the Pacific plate moves Hawaii’s volcanoes farther from the hotspot, they erupt less frequently, then no longer tap into the upwelling of molten rock and die. The island erodes and the crust beneath it cools, shrinks and sinks, and the island is again submerged. Millions of years from now, the Hawaiian Islands will disappear when the edge of the Pacific plate that supports them slides under the North American plate and returns to the mantle.

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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