New South Pacific Island Shows Fast-forming Geology
Volcanic activity from a submarine vent of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano
by Phil Robinson
Volcanic activity from a submarine vent of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano has recently created a new island 55 km (35 miles) off the coast of Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean. The new island was formed as a result of a six-week eruption which officially ended on 26 January 2015. As a result of erupted magma and vast plumes of ash, which reached heights of up to 9,000 m (30,000 ft), the as yet unnamed cone-shaped island was formed spanning about 1.7 km (1.1 miles) by 1.4 km (0.9 miles) and reaching an impressive 100 m (330 ft) above sea level. As the island grew rapidly it joined onto a smaller neighbouring island, Hunga Ha’apai, and stopped about 60 m (200 ft) short of connecting to a second island, Hunga Tonga, both of which have had their flora and fauna devastated by the eruption.
The new island is thought to be composed mainly of scoria (solidified basaltic lava filled with gas holes) and clearly defined layers of wet ash which were deposited close to the vent and can be observed in pictures taken of the new island. The island also boasts a vast green sulphurous lake. One visitor to the island said, “There are thousands of seabirds—all kinds, laying eggs on the island”.
While this eruption is relatively small in comparison to the catastrophic eruptions that took place during Noah’s Flood, and the large flood basalts that were formed as a result such as the Giant’s Causeway, it does show just how quickly such geological events take place…
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image credit: G P Orbassano