It’s like the Big Bang all over again! Did you know that in December 2014, the eruption of an underwater volcano formed a new island in the South Pacific Ocean?
The volcano in question is located in the island kingdom of Tonga, an area containing more than one hundred islands. The volcano, called Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, began erupting in mid-December and within days, new rock formations could be seen in the ocean. These formations developed over a few weeks, eventually growing into a new island.
The island is about 390 feet above sea level, 0.9 miles (1.4 km) running north to south, and 1.2 miles (1.9 km) running west to east, not too big in the grand scheme of things, but impressive when you think that it materialized from nothing almost overnight!
Before and After the Underwater Volcano Formed A New Island
The First Explorers
Gianpiero Orbassano, a hotel owner in Tonga recently visited the newly formed landmass. He said this about his trip:
It’s really quite solid once you are on it and it’s quite high… It felt quite safe – the only difficult thing was getting out of the boat on to the island. The surface was hot, you could feel it. And climbing it was hard in the bright sun.
However, scientists were quick to point out the dangers of untrained individuals investigating the island, citing it as unstable and unsafe. Dr. Watson of the University of Bristol explained:
It will be very loose and unconsolidated material. It’s formed by fragmentation of magma, so it’s basically small pieces of rock on top of each other have formed and island.
As crazy as it seems, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. In November 2013, the volcanic island of Nishinoshima began to erupt, 620 (997 km) miles south of Tokyo. By the end of the year, a new land mass fused into Nishinoshima due to lava coming up to the surface of the water. It is still volcanically active today, expanding and creating more land as lava creeps out.
It is unlikely that these islands will be fit for human inhabitation any time soon. Nonetheless, it is amazing to think that a volcanic eruption could result in the creation of new islands.
Any would-be adventurers should beware though. Exploration of these areas is risky business and you could literally land yourself in very hot water!
Or more accurately, some liquid hot “magma”.
Want to learn more about how this underwater volcano formed a new island? Watch this short video with real footage!