Another day, another wonder, and this one will also stir the debate about whether wonders should be man made or natural. Regardless of your position on that issue, there is no doubt as to the beauty of the underwater world of the Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument.
The national monument encompasses nearly 140,000 square miles of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and provides for protection and preservation of the marine area. It is the largest single area dedicated to conservation, and the largest protected marine area in the world. To get a sense of just how big we are talking about, it is larger than 46 of our 50 states.
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands include ten islands and atolls, and stretch over nearly 1,400 miles. The undersea forests and mountain ranges of this area comprise a coral reef habitat that exceeds 4,500 square miles, and is the largest, most untouched coral reef system in the U.S.
Living in this undersea bliss, are over 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which are found nowhere else on earth. The area is the primary home for the surviving Hawaiian Monk Seals (critically endangered with about 1,400 still living), and is the breeding ground for the threatened Hawaiian Islands Green Sea Turtle.
This is an amazing world, which most of us will only be able to see and learn about through photos.
Photo credit: flickr