July 07, 2020 7 min read
The elevation - or the height - of a mountain is normally measured from the base of the mountain to its tallest peak. Mount Everest, located on the Nepal - China border, has an official elevation measuring a staggering 8,848 metres or 8.84 kilometres. With its base located high on the Tibetan Plateau, Mount Everest definitely wins the challenge of having the highest altitude on the planet. But, is it truly the tallest mountain on the planet? As we also know, not all mountain ranges are above the ground. Many mountains rise up from deep ocean basins, and don’t look all that impressive, because most of the mountain remains submerged underwater. If we take these underwater mountain ranges, how does Mount Everest compare?
Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano, located in Hawaii, and has an altitude of 4184 metres(4.18 kilometres) which is significantly lower than that of Mount Everest. MaunaKea is a relatively new mountain, and was formed around a million years ago, when the Pacific tectonic plate plates collided with the Hawaiian landmass. Mauna Kea is actually an island, and what we see above the water is just the tip of the mountain peak, so to speak. If we measure Mauna Kea from the base, submerged under water, to its peak, it measures almost 10,200 metres (10.2 kilometres). That makes it almost 1352 metres taller than Mount Everest! So, despite all its popular claims, Mount Everest is NOT the tallest mountain on the planet. That claim belongs to Mount Kea, in Hawaii.
We all know that the Earth is not a perfect spherical-shaped ball, but is in fact, a spheroid that bulges outwards around the Equator, and flattens towards the poles. As a result, the places around the Equator can be upto 20 kilometres further away from the centre of the Earth as compared to the areas around either poles. This strange phenomenon gives Mount Chimborazo, located in Ecuador, right near the Equator, a unique claim to fame. While it has an altitude of 6,310 meters (6.3 kilometres) and does not compete with Everest or Mauna Kea as the tallest mountain on the planet, it does hold the distinction of being the world’s highest point from the centre of the Earth. At its peak, Mount Chimborazo is about 6384.5kilometres away from the Earth’s core, whereas Everest comes up just short at approximately 6382.3 kilometres. So, if you choose to measure the height of a mountain as the distance of the peak of the mountain from the centre of the Earth, Mount Chimborazo beats Mount Everest and even Mauna Kea as the tallest mountain on the planet.
Now you know which is the tallest mountain on Earth, you are probably curious how our mountains compare to other mountains in the Solar System? Well, according to space explorations, an extinct volcano on Mars, known as Olympus Mons, measures 21900 metres or 21.9 kilometres from base to peak, making it the second tallest mountain known to man, that exists in the Solar System. To put this in perspective, it is almost two and a half times the height of Mount Everest!!! It is so tall, that if a person were standing right in front of the mountain, they would not be able to see the mountain in full view, as the size of the mountain would be hidden by the curvature of Mars. Another interesting fact about Olympus Mons is that it is also the largest known volcano in the Solar System.
Rheasilvia, on the asteroid Vesta, which is located somewhere in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars. Rheasilvia is believed to be an impact crater, and roughly measures approximately 505 kilometres in diameter. According to estimates, the central peak of the crater measures roughly 23 kilometres in height, making it the tallest mountain in the Solar System. How’s that for a super-sized mountain?
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