Is this how the world began? It must have been a very violent world before. Volcanoes erupting, huge ones I suppose, giving rise to the formation of the continents and countries while they are at it. Just few days ago, an excellent example to this effect happened in Tonga, adding more acreage to the small country. I might be wrong about how the world started but the fact remains that volcanoes, both those found on the surface and underwater, have had a hand in giving our planet its present form.
An underwater volcanic eruption in Tonga has given birth to a new South Pacific island. The 500m-long land mass, located 45km northwest of the capital, Nuku’alofa , was formed after an eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano that started in December last year. The eruption also disrupted international air travel to the pacific archipelago for several days.
While it may seem like an idyllic getaway scientists have warned visitors to steer clear, saying the island is highly unstable and vulnerable to waves and currents.
“It’s quite fragile really, I don’t think you should go on it. And we don’t really know if the eruption has finished either,” Mary Lyn Fonua, editor of the Matangi Tonga website told BBC.
New Zealand volcanologist, Nico Fournier said he traveled by boat in going to the island to take a closer look at it. He also said that once the volcano stops erupting, it will likely take the ocean no more than a few months to erode the island completely. He added that it would need to be made of lava or something more durable to survive.
The volcano, which goes by the full name of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, erupted for the second time in five years in December.
Matt Watson, a reader in natural hazards at the University of Bristol, added: “It’s formed by fragmentation of magma, so it’s basically small pieces of rock on top of each other that have formed the island.”
January 22, 2015: Workers from New Zealand’s High Commission in Tonga have filmed an underwater volcano erupting and creating a new island in the Pacific.
Satellite images taken at the time showed new rock formations already beginning to emerge – and at the center, a large circular crater.
One person who didn’t heed the warnings was Gianpiero Orbassano, who traveled by boat to capture striking images of the new island from its surface.”It’s really quite solid once you are on it and it’s quite high,” Mr Orbassano, who owns a hotel on Tonga’s main island, said.
“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.”
The 63-year-old said he had previously traveled to another volcanic island in the Pacific, where he and a group of friends played golf at the spot.