Is Mount Everest Really the Tallest Mountain on Earth?

Measured from base to peak, Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is much taller than Mount Everest, but most of it is underwater.
Measured from base to peak, Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is much taller than Mount Everest, but most of it is underwater.

Every schoolchild knows the answer to the question: What's the tallest mountain on Earth? It's Mauna Kea. Um... what? Technically speaking, it's true. Measured from base to peak, Hawaii's giant mountain is much taller than Nepal and Tibet's Mount Everest, soaring 33,500 feet (10,210 m) compared with Everest's more meager 29,029 feet (8,848 m). The only thing is, much of Mauna Kea is underwater, so Mauna Kea's summit is only 13,796 feet (4,205 m) above sea level.

If you really want to bicker about what constitutes the "highest point," consider this: The summit of Ecuador's Mount Chimborazo is 6,800 feet (2,072 m) farther from the center of the Earth than Everest's peak, although Chimborazo only rises 20,564 feet (6,268 m) above sea level. That's because the Earth is not a perfect sphere, but shaped more like an egg, and Chimborazo sits close to the "centrifugal bulge" at the Equator. Rest assured, though – Everest still has the honor of reaching the farthest from global mean sea level; plus, it's really, really hard to climb.

Everest forever:

  • Mount Everest formed 60 million years ago, when the continental plate under India smashed into the rest of Asia.

  • Everest is always growing, though minutely, because tectonic plates shift and push it higher.

  • Nearly 6,000 people have made it to the top of Everest, starting with Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

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    • Measured from base to peak, Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is much taller than Mount Everest, but most of it is underwater.
      By: shankar s.
      Measured from base to peak, Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is much taller than Mount Everest, but most of it is underwater.