I received an e-mail a few weeks ago with some intriguing photos. (Click on any of the thumbnails above for a larger image.) The e-mail was titled “AMAZING SIGHT IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC, SPECTACULAR.” It was one of those e-mails that had been forwarded over and over again and had no sources and no date. It would be hard to say whether the photographs were current or from years ago. Nevertheless, they were fascinating. The photographs were taken from a yacht that had encountered what appeared to be a beach, stretching as far as the eye could see in the middle of the South Pacific. It turned out that it was floating pumice, the volcanic rock formed when lava erupts underwater.
Update: The photos above date from at least 2006. They apparently first appeared on the Fredrik and Crew on Maiken blog and were taken near Late Island, southwest of Vavaʻu in the kingdom of Tonga. (Thanks to Phil Leon for the heads up.)
In a similar event, the New Zealand Navy is now reporting a “pumice raft” covering an area of roughly 10,000 square miles, an area only slightly smaller than the nation of Belgium, floating in the Pacific about 1,000 miles off the New Zealand coast.
Lieutenant Tim Oscar told the AFP news agency: “As far ahead as I could observe was a raft of pumice moving up and down with the swell.
“The [top of the] rock looked to be sitting two feet above the surface of the waves and lit up a brilliant white colour. It looked exactly like the edge of an ice shelf,” the officer said.
As reported by the BBC, Researchers aboard the ship, HMNZS Canterbury, suggest that the source of the pumice was an underwater volcano (seamount) known as Monowai, located to the north of New Zealand.
Read more: ‘Weirdest thing’ floats in South Pacific
Thanks to Ann Brown for contributing to this post.