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The South Kaua‘i Swell (SKS) is a 110 km x 80 km ovoid bathymetric feature that stands >2 km high and abuts the southern flank of the island of Kaua‘i. The origin of the SKS was investigated using multibeam bathymetry and acoustic backscatter, gravity data, radiometric ages, and geochemistry of rock samples. Most of the SKS rock samples are tholeiitic in composition with ages of 3.9–5.4 Ma indicating they were derived from shield volcanism. The ages and compositions of the SKS rocks partially overlap with those of the nearby Ni‘ihau, Kaua‘i and West Ka‘ena volcano complexes. The SKS was originally described as a landslide; however, this interpretation is problematic given the ovoid shape of SKS, its relatively smooth, flat‐to‐convex surface, and the lack of an obvious source region that could accommodate what would be one of Earth's most voluminous (6 x 103 km3) landslides. The morphology, size, and the surrounding gravity anomaly are more consistent with the SKS being a low‐relief shield volcano, which was partially covered with a small volume of landside debris from south Kaua‘i and later with some secondary volcanic seamounts. A shield origin would imply that Hawaiian and possibly other hotspot shield volcanoes can take on a wider variety of forms than is commonly thought, ranging from tall island‐building shields, to smaller edifices such as Ka‘ena Ridge and Mahukona, to even lower‐relief volcanoes represented by the SKS and possibly the South West O‘ahu Volcanic Field.