NASA has uncovered a new island that’s just a few days old – but already has a tragic story.
The US space agency used powerful satellite cameras to snap a lonely rocky outcrop formed by volcanic eruptions.
It’s in an area of the southwest Pacific Ocean renowned for underwater volcanoes.
“On September 10, 2022, one of them awoke,” Nasa explained.
“In the days since, the Home Reef seamount in the Central Tonga Islands has repeatedly oozed lava, ejected plumes of steam and ash, and discoloured the surrounding water.”
The island was estimated to be 33 feet above sea level and about an acre in size on September 14, according to Nasa and the Tonga Geological Services.
But it’s since grown to six acres – around 24,000 square metres.
The island formed in an area with a seafloor ridge that stretches from New Zealand to Tonga – with the highest density of underwater volcanoes anywhere in the world.
Nasa suggests that the new island rose up as soon as 11 hours after the eruption began.
Images show plumes of “superheated, acidic seawater” spreading out from the island, containing volcanic rock fragments and sulphur.
Nasa says that the island is located southwest of Late Island, northeast of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai, and northwest of Mo‘unga‘one.
It’s atop Home Reef, where three tectonic plates are crashing into each other at relatively fast speeds.
But it’s bad news for new island fans: its existence may be short-lived.
Volcanic islands often disappear very quickly, even if they’re quite big.
So the new island may meet a tragic end in the near future.
There’s hope though: some new volcanic islands do last for years.
“Home Reef has had four recorded periods of eruptions, including events in 1852 and 1857,” Nasa explained.
“Small islands temporarily formed after both events, and eruptions in 1984 and 2006 produced ephemeral islands with cliffs that were 50 to 70 meters high.
“An island created by a 12-day eruption from nearby Late‘iki Volcano in 2020 washed away after two months, while an earlier island created in 1995 by the same volcano remained for 25 years.”
It’s unclear how long this new island will take to break apart.
Thankfully satellite images give us a clear view of its majesty – so history will never forget.
But while island fans will love the news, officials are warning ships to stay away from the area due to ash-fall.
“The volcano poses low risks to the aviation community and the residents of Vava‘u and Ha‘apai,” the Tonga Geological Service warned.
“All mariners are, however, advised to sail beyond 4 kilometres away from Home Reef until further notice.”
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