The crew of the Maiken, a yacht that left the northern Tongan islands group of Vava'u (between Kao in the Ha'apai Group and Late in the Vava'u Groupin) , reported on their Web log on Aug. 12/06 that they saw streaks of light, porous pumice stone floating in the water
— then "sailed into a vast, many-miles-wide belt of densely packed pumice."
They posted photos of huge pumice rafts that they encountered after passing Tonga's Late island while sailing toward Fiji
Back in August 2006, Fredrik Fransson and some fellow Swedes were sailing (yacht “Maiken”) in the South Pacific
when they came across a sea of pumice stones and then a brand new erupting Island. Fredrik documented this with some amazing photos on his blog < Fredrik and Crew on Maiken: Stone sea and volcano
NASA askedfor the coordinates (18deg. 59.5S x 174deg. 46.3W)
, and took a picture, which has now been published < Catalog Page for PIA01899
The raft of pumice appears to the northeast of the emerging island, and it actually connects, via a thin thread, to neighboring Late Island. The blue-green color of the water
around the raft and the new island is probably fine sediment that is making the deep blue water more reflective.
The same volcano last erupted in 1984, producing an island that has since eroded away. If there was no volcanic lava flow, this “Island” too, will be quickly eroded away.
Pumice rafts are not an everyday occurrence, but they have been observed before. In 1986, a pumice raft of unknown origin caused engine
trouble for a Dutch vessel in the South China
Sea. Pumice rafts drifted to Fiji
in 1979 and 1984 from eruptions around Tonga
, and some were reportedly 30 kilometers (19 miles) wide.
Biologists have also proposed pumice rafts as a way to explain how plants and animals
spread from island to island in marine
environments. Crabs and barnacles
hitch a ride across the ocean to form new colonies, and in some cases there have been other unusual passengers. When the Krakatoa eruption of 1883 occurred, in Indonesia
, there were giant tsunamis, and giant pumice rafts. Some rafts arrived a year later in Africa
having gone 6000 km. On top of those rafts were found skeletons, the bones of people that had been carried all the way across the ocean."