The submergence of Hiva
Myth or reality?
In historical times, the submergence or cataclysmic disappearance of oceanic islands has happened and been documented. A large island near Vanuatu, called Kuwae, was totally destroyed by an enormous volcanic eruption in early 1453. The large island of Kuwae was fragmented into two minor islands, Tongoa y Epi, leaving behind a large hole of 12 by 6 kilometers (7 by 3.5 miles) completely buried under the sea. Local folklore relates that this eruption was apocalyptic, causing great earthquakes, tsunamis which affected neighboring islands and leaving Kuwae twisted and collapsed from the violence of the eruption. Many people were victims of this gigantic event, but the survivors were able to sail away to Efate, another island in the group.
These two historical cases could shed light on the disappearance, or partial disappearance, of Hiva, at some time in the early second millennium. Submerged volcanic calderas are abundant throughout the Pacific. Up until now, none of them has been conclusively identified with Hiva. Leaving aside the mystical, speculative tales of the lost continents of Atlantis, Lemuria or Mu, the partial or total disappearance of islands in the ocean is a scientific and historically documented fact, which might also be the origin of some of the foundation myths of Polynesia.
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