Photo: Hawaii Center for Volcanology
Hawaii is a chain of shield volcanoes. Each island has been built up by a series of eruptions. Hawaii, the largest, is made up of five volcanoes. Kilauea, Mauna Loa, and Haualalei, as well as Haleakala on Maui have all erupted since the late 1700s. "Hawaiian" eruptions are low on the Volcanic Explosivity Index.
Beneath the sea floor, the hot spot that gave birth to the island chain continues to move a few centimeters per year. As this process continues, the older volcanic islands are separated and moved away from the hot spot below. They become inactive, and the magma finds its way out in new volcanoes. Lo'ihi is just such a young volcano.
Hawaii's geological history has found expression in mythological stories. The volcano goddess Pele is said to have lived previously on Kaui, Oahu and Maui before taking up residence in Kilauea on Hawaii.