America by Air: The Turquoise Waters of Waikiki

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
Alex Gilman-Smith

Alex Gilman-Smith, who previously submitted these great canyon shots from the Southwest, also has a gorgeous one from Hawaii:

I’m really enjoying your America by Air series and I thought you might enjoy these pictures I grabbed during a Delta 837 flight from Atlanta to Honolulu. After a lot of blue, we reached Hawaii, where I took this picture of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.

What’s Diamond Head?

It’s the name of a volcanic tuff cone on the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu and known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi, most likely from lae 'browridge, promontory’ plus ʻahi 'tuna' because the shape of the ridgeline resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin. Its English name was given by British sailors in the 19th century, who mistook calcite crystals on the adjacent beach for diamonds.

Diamond Head is part of the system of cones, vents, and their associated eruption flows that are collectively known to geologists as the Honolulu Volcanic Series, eruptions from the Koʻolau Volcano that took place long after the volcano formed and had gone dormant.

Here’s a closer look: