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The Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain is composed of the Hawaiian Ridge, consisting of the islands of the Hawaiian chain northwest to Kure Atoll, and the Emperor Seamounts, a vast underwater mountain region of islands and intervening seamounts, atolls, shallows, banks and reefs along a line trending southeast to northwest beneath the northern Pacific Ocean. The Hawaiian Islands are that portion of the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain that projects above sea level. The youngest formation in the chain is the volcano island of Hawaii, the big island. All of the chain was created by a hotspot of volcanic activity that was essentially stationary as the Pacific tectonic plate drifted in a northwesterly direction, leaving a trail of increasingly eroded volcanic islands and seamounts in its wake.
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