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Simple models for the flexure of the lithosphere caused by the load of the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain have been determined for different values of the effective flexural rigidity of the lithosphere. The gravity effect of the models have been computed and compared to observed free-air gravity anomaly profiles in the vicinity of the seamount chain. The values of the effective flexural rigidity which most satisfactorily explain both the amplitude and wavelength of the observed profiles have been determined. Computations show that if the lithosphere is modelled as a continuous elastic sheet, a single effective flexural rigidity of about 5 × 1029 dyne-cm can explain profiles along the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain. If the lithosphere is modelled as a discontinuous elastic sheet an effective flexural rigidity of about 2 × 1030 dyne-cm is required. Since the age of the seamount chain increases from about 3 My near Hawaii to about 70 My near the northernmost Emperor seamount these results suggest there is apparently little decrease in the effective flexural rigidity of the lithosphere with increase in the age of loading. This suggests the lithosphere is rigid enough to support the load of the seamount chain for periods of time of at least several tens of millions of years. Thus the subsidence of atolls and guyots along the chain is most likely to be regional in extent and is unlikely to be caused by an inelastic behaviour of the lithosphere beneath individual seamounts.