Volcanic Explosion in Pacific Creates New Island in Tonga

In December of last year, an underwater volcano began erupting and has created a new island in the South Pacific. Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai is a submarine volcano located between two islands belonging to the Pacific nation of Tonga. Located 65km (40mi) southwest of the main island Tongatapu, the new land mass is 500 meters long and the highest point is estimated to be about 250 meters. A large crater is visible in satellite photos and the eruption spilled over joining it to one of the existing islands.

A new volcanic island rising from the Pacific Ocean - March 2015.

This video from January shows the eruption of Hunga Tonga: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GxcQIZ339M[/youtube]

These satellite images show the islands before and after the eruption:

Two islands of Hunga Tonga by satellite Satellite image showing two islands and large crater

Recently, three locals from Tonga set foot on the island and took photos of the newly formed land mass. 63 year old Gianpiero Orbassano, a former photographer, told reporters that he could feel heat radiating from the surface. The crater is now filled with bright green water, visible in the photos, that smells like sulfur and chemicals according to Orbassano. The brave adventurers stated that climbing the island was not too difficult, didn’t seem dangerous and they believe it has strong potential to become a tourist attraction.


However, Matt Watson, a natural hazards professor at the University of Bristol, expressed his concerns with the stability of the land mass. The sediments are loose and unconsolidated, and therefore unsafe to walk on. “It’s formed by fragmentation of magma, so it’s basically small pieces of rock on top of each other that have formed an island” he explained to the BBC. This also makes the new island vulnerable to waves and ocean currents.





One thought on “Volcanic Explosion in Pacific Creates New Island in Tonga

  1. I found this to be really intriguing, Alice! I love the picture of the two men on the island, but I’m not sure if it was necessarily smart for them to climb the island as the professor stated that the sediments were loose and not safe to walk on. Talk about differences in risk perception! I’m curious as to how long it may take for the water on the island to stop smelling of sulfur and chemicals and maybe even begin to produce life. Perhaps once that occurs, the new island can really become a great tourist stop. I can’t decide if it is more likely for the new island to simply blow away in the wind or get carried away by the ocean! Also, I appreciated your efforts in including several images and a video!

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