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Birth of an Island 136

Posted by kdawson
from the rising-in-fire dept.
slashmojo writes that while some islands are sinking, last August another rose from the ocean, formed by volcanic activity and caught in the act by a passing yacht. From the article: "What looked like a brown stain on the South Pacific turned out to be a spectacular drift of floating pumice stones stretching more than 16 km — and an indication an island was being born nearby... 'We are getting emails from volcanologists saying this is so rare.'" Here is the blog post of the yachtsman who photographed the nascent island.
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Birth of an Island

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 31, 2006 @10:51PM (#17419854)
    God giveth and God taketh away....
    all balances out in the end we are just a small part of His PLAN
  • by CRC'99 (96526) on Sunday December 31, 2006 @10:51PM (#17419860) Homepage
    What looked like a brown stain on the South Pacific turned out to be a spectacular drift of floating pumice stones stretching more than 16 km


    So when the earth gets a floater in the pool, it's one big mutha. Try fishing that out with a net ;)
  • by markana (152984) on Sunday December 31, 2006 @10:52PM (#17419868)
    Sounds fair.

    First one to the new island gets the prime beachfront property! :-)
  • This is so awesome (Score:4, Informative)

    by PurifyYourMind (776223) on Sunday December 31, 2006 @10:56PM (#17419888) Homepage
    You usually think of these structures as having been around for at least as long as civilization, but clearly the Earth is ever-changing... very cool.

    Here's a decent intro to island formation:
    http://www.hawaii.edu/environment/ainakumuwai/html /ainakumuwaiislandformation.htm [hawaii.edu]
  • It's... (Score:1, Offtopic)

    Magrathea!!
  • Nice a new island for the new year. What more can you want?
    • Unlimited cosmic power.
      • by Joebert (946227)
        And a Corona, make that 2 Coronas, and a lime, and some ice, better grab a cooler & just make it a 12 pack of Coronas, better get extra ice too, I bet it's prety hot there.

        Now that, would be miles away from ordinary.
    • by Wire3117 (787002)
      OP thought he was original by posting stuff from august. BUT it remains cool though.
  • Those pictures are amazing. But is there anything under the pumice? Or were they able to just sail through it? I'm confused...
    • by srmalloy (263556)
      Many volcanoes will blow out chunks of pumice in the course of an eruption. Because it's essentially foamed rock -- filled with bubbles from gas that expanded in the lava as it erupted and cooled -- it's less dense than water, and will float. However, because the island is new, their charts will have been unreliable as to the depth of water around the new island, and given that new lava flows can be sharp, I'm not surprised that they sheered off rather than approaching closer. With the sun going down, and t
  • Claim (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What IS the international protocol for claiming a new island? My flag first, nearest neighbour?
    • Re:Claim (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MPHellwig (847067) <mhellwig@xs4all.nl> on Monday January 01, 2007 @12:33AM (#17420242) Homepage
      Quite simply, you claim it's yours and it's yours unless somebody else with a bigger gun says so.
    • Well - if the island is formed close to another chain of islands, whoever lays claim to the original chain, probably by default has claim to the new one simply due to proximity.

      However being able to occupy and defend this island is only part of the ability to claim it, because the governing organization of the island must also be recognized by other governments as being the official governing body for that area of land. Anyone can say they are an independent sovereign nation-state, but even if they have the
    • Re:Claim (Score:5, Informative)

      by BrianH (13460) on Monday January 01, 2007 @04:58AM (#17421000)
      Depends on where its at. This particular island lies within the already recognized territorial waters of Tonga, so it belongs to them. Since most new islands would form in volcanic chains with pre-existing atolls and islands, this is likely to be the case the vast majority of the time.

      If you did manage to spot an island forming outside of the territorial waters of another nation, the biggest gun rule generally applies. You can claim it yourself and try to create your own nation, but good luck defending it when someone with bigger guns than you decides to grab it. Until you have a settled population on the island, nobody is going to care that some lone nut got kicked off a speck of rock in the middle of the ocean. He who had the biggest guns wins. Until you actually get a population, nobody is going to recognize you as a nation. As a example, the Republic of Minerva was set up in the 1970's on infill located on an unclaimed atoll...basically, a bunch of dirt was piled on an atoll to create an artificial island. Nobody paid much attention to the island or the builders claims, and eventually Tonga sent their army over, evicted the guy, and claimed the island for themselves. Since there was no actual population living on the island, little attention was paid to the "invasion". The people involved in building the island still whine about their claim and call themselves the "government in exile", but without a population to represent or an army to defend themselves, they're little more than a paper organization. The island, as I understand it, was allowed to erode back into the sea. Only a few narrow spits of land ringing the reefs remain.
  • Grr (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by QuoteMstr (55051)
    "So" is not a synonym of "very".
  • Supercool (Score:3, Interesting)

    by presidentbeef (779674) on Sunday December 31, 2006 @11:29PM (#17420036) Homepage Journal
    I hope scientists can get some cool information out of his. And perhaps footage of the island forming...maybe some time-lapse photography or something. That would be neat-o.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 31, 2006 @11:34PM (#17420060)
    "slashmojo writes that while some islands are sinking, last August another rose from the ocean [CC] [MD] [GC], formed by volcanic activity and caught in the act by a passing yacht."

    See. I told you rich people are good for something. :)
    • by potat0man (724766)
      Actually, done on the cheap, yachting is probably the lowest-cost way to see the world. - No hotel bills, no airfare, make your own food most of the time. Just need to save up that big downpayment. But if you shop around and are willing to buy modest and used you can find them for around $30k-$60k depending on where you live.

      Yeah, I have detailed early retirement plans...
  • by khendron (225184) on Sunday December 31, 2006 @11:35PM (#17420062) Homepage
    This is really neat, but doesn't it strike anybody as odd that they decided to sail
    *towards* an active volcano? Were they trying to get a last minute entry into the 2006 Darwin Awards or something?
    • by istartedi (132515)

      Nevermind that, what does pumice do to your hull? To your prop? Obviously it doesn't hurt to go through a little, because they survived; but that stuff is abrasive. Did they have any frame of reference for this, or did they just not consider what it might do, and get lucky?

      • by niktemadur (793971) on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:08AM (#17420694)
        From the blog:
        After cleaning the water filter the Yanmar diesel started again. Thank God! Without wind we would have been stuck in a sea of stone if the motor had failed. Next thing to check was the other water inlets. Some minor pumice particles but nothing serious. But the bottom paint were scrubbed away at places along the waterline, Maiken has an ablative paint so it was just doing what is supposed to do. Like we'd sailed through sandpaper.

        So you're right of course, and in case of doubt, one should err on the side of caution. But in a situation like this, the opportunity to witness a spectacular one in a million event, then to see a gigantic patch of pumice floating by...whew... that's gotta be a flood of adrenaline. Most sailors don't even dream of witnessing something like this, it's so far out there. Hell man, you just gotta inspect that thing up-close, you take as many precautions as possible, but some safety will get thrown to the winds. Chalk another one up for curiosity.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ColaMan (37550)
          Most sailors don't even dream of witnessing something like this, it's so far out there. Hell man, you just gotta inspect that thing up-close, you take as many precautions as possible, but some safety will get thrown to the winds. Chalk another one up for curiosity.

          A true sailor would rail against nature like a madman, with wild eyes and a raised fist silhouetted against the sky dramatically. Probably something along the lines of :

          "Damn you, nature! That patch of ocean was mine to sail, MINE I say! And now y
        • by jafiwam (310805)
          Hehe, yeah my first thought was "those guys are lucky they are not dead".

          Pumice is cool and floats because it's filled with gas (air, what came with the eruption).

          Chances are, that gas is NOT something good for humans to breathe. Plus, it'll be pretty cool because it came up from the water in small bits, and as a result might hang around near the surface. (Sulfur gases are mostly heavier than air as I understand it.)

          So, get into a situation where the craft could foul in a very unusual debris field or run
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 31, 2006 @11:39PM (#17420086)

    Between recent plans to map under Greenland's ice to find the home of the Elder Things and Shoggoths, and now this, I think it's obvious H.P. Lovecraft's prophecy is coming true.

    All glory to Cthulhu.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by AndroidCat (229562)

      It's the city of R'lyeh arising from the slumbering depths! [wikipedia.org]

      Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Between recent plans to map under Greenland's ice to find the home of the Elder Things and Shoggoths, and now this, I think it's obvious H.P. Lovecraft's prophecy is coming true.

      All glory to Cthulhu.

      As an eldritch and probably outre version of Pascal's wager, I'm with you.
  • by aapold (753705) on Sunday December 31, 2006 @11:43PM (#17420102) Homepage Journal
    First post!
    • by berbo (671598)
      FTFA:

      "The closer we came to the island the clearer the smoke stood out from the surrounding clouds, and every so often a massive black pillar shot upwards toward the sky," Fransson said.

      "You could see particles raining down."

      In South Pacific, island lands on you!
  • by creimer (824291) on Sunday December 31, 2006 @11:58PM (#17420144) Homepage
    ...caught in the act by a passing yacht.

    Nosy environmnetalists and their cameras. Worst than the paparazzi on a Saturday night.
  • by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Monday January 01, 2007 @12:00AM (#17420152) Homepage Journal

    Its fascinating that something like this, in the age of of satellite monitoring, global communications, Google Earth, can happen without vulcanologists aware of it. Its possible that military organizations detected it & then dismissed it as outside their purview & didn't pass it on, in any case it's unfortunate that such a rare event escaped study. Hopefully we'll soon see automated earth science 'anomaly' expert systems processing realtime data and alerting relevant specialists.

    On the other hand, it's impressive that there were people there! That the human species is so ubiquitous on planet Earth that a random bunch of folks happened to be sailing in proximity, in what was historically one of the most isolate places on the planet. It really does bring home that there are now more folks alive today then have died in the history of our species, that we're now regularly witnessing these one-in-a-million (but what is that to six billion?!) events!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Here are the images from NASA and the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

      http://www.ulb.ac.be/sciences/cvl/homereef/homeree f.html [ulb.ac.be]

      Mirror: http://www.ulb.ac.be.nyud.net:8080/sciences/cvl/ho mereef/homereef.html [nyud.net]
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by SmashedSqwurl (836794)
      Actually, as soon as I saw this article, I went on Google Earth and looked for it. It's there!

      Here are the coordinates: 18 59 25.13 S, 174 45 46.40 W

      Naturally, I immediately made a placemark.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ImpShial (1045486)
      It is amazing that someone would be around to witness this. With the population explosion we've seen in the last 20 years, it makes you wonder how crowded our solar system is going to be in 200 years.

      But... (a bit off-topic)

      maggard wrote:

      It really does bring home that there are now more folks alive today then have died in the history of our species

      This is actually an urban legend. Demographers put the estimate at roughly 80 billion dead throughout history. Modest estimates put the total number of people alive today at approximately 6% of the total of all people who have ever lived.

      Links:
      http://www.economist [economist.com]

    • Volcanic erruptions may not create a lot seismic noise to be detected by worldwide seismographs or submarine hydrophones. There may not be an explosion. There is a volcanic noise called "harmonic earthquake" which kind of a long gurgle of moving lava. Fault earthquakes have sharp onsets, many frequencies, and strong energy while harmonic quakes dont have sharp onsets and are relatively monochromatic. Quake observation software is not tuned for these kind of quakes.
  • This is definitely a must-see experience, and I envy the travelers who were lucky enough to witness something so rare. However, I'm less envious of the captain when he reaches harbor and realizes that sailing through 16km of pumice is hell on the bottom paint. He's going to have fun getting that repainted. ;) (Of course, a REAL captain would just do it himself.)

    Speaking from the experience of having lived on a sailboat for three years, and having painted the bottom in dry dock at least once.
    • Ever woken up in a flock of mutton birds sitting atop the water and streatching as far as the eye can see? Once into something that large floating on top, it's not always clear how to get out. Admittedly sailing toward the volcano was unlikely to help matters as much as crossing the current would have.

      ...And a smart captain would shanghi some kids! :)
  • Before you go to the island to celebrate,
    who knows when it will submerge ?
  • that yacht didn't try to pass through that "brown stain" and discover that they had just run aground.
  • by mikeisme77 (938209) on Monday January 01, 2007 @01:13AM (#17420348) Homepage Journal
    Now if I saw an island being formed, I would anchor my yacht offshore, wait for the land to cool, then plant a flag claiming it in the name of my new sovereign nation... Even if it's just a small island, it would still be cool to be the ruler of an island nation...
    A man can dream...
    • Please look at http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Making_an_Island [wikibooks.org] for some further information and sources.

      In the early 1970's, there was a Las Vegas developer who ended up going to an atoll that was technically in unclaimed international waters and "built" an island by dumping extra material on this group of submerged rocks to the point that there was a portion that stayed above water during high tides, technically new territory just as you have suggested.

      BTW, this was also near the Tongan islands, so this is also relevant in this situation.

      What happened afterward was that a group of Tongan soldiers "invaded" the newly formed island and asserted sovereignty by "occupying" the island in the name of Tonga. Instead of formenting an international incident, the developer relented and gave up his attempt to build his own South Pacific version of Monaco.

      I'm not sure what would have happened if this developer had his own "army" that would have defended the island, but it certainly seems like Tonga would consider it justifications for going to war if it happened near one of their islands. I'm curious what the Tongan government may have to say about this new island in their general domain.
      • by jabuzz (182671)
        Well by all accounts the Tongan soldiers where very minimally if at all armed. Clearly if you are trying to set up a new sovregn nation state an army to defend your nation is critical. There are plenty of individuals in the world with sufficient wealth to pull this off.
    • by Cygnus78 (628037)
      Some french journalists tried to do that with Surtsey in 1963, but it did not work, the island appeared in Icelandic waters and thus is Icelandic.
  • I wonder if any of them took a second to realize what that brown stain was worth wrapped in plastic & sold in Bed Bath & Beyond.

    Natural Virgin Pumice Foot Scrubbers complete with Special Snake Oil -- $19.99 ea
  • Can he name the Island as he was the first to see it/step on it?

    I guess he could try to keep the Island for himself, but I guess it would then be his responsibility to protect it from other invaders..
  • They are making more land these days!
  • Dandelion... (Score:1, Redundant)

    by MoOsEb0y (2177)
    When lava pours out near the sea surface, tremendous volcanic explosions sometimes occur. In time, submarine seamounts, or islands, are formed. When lava flows underwater, it behaves differently. And a new contraption to capture a 'dandelion' in one piece has been put together by the crew. The preparation for a dive is always a tense time. When lava pours out near the sea surface, tremendous volcanic explosions sometimes occur.
  • Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn...
  • We are getting emails from volcanologists saying this is so rare, but I thought "naw, forget it". Yo homes to Bel-Air!
  • This just in! The new island has suddenly lurched into the air and is now headed skywards. There are unconfirmed reports that a man with a cape was seen at the bottom of this former island. It was assumed to be Superman but since the island was made of kryptonite, this is actively being debated on the internet.
  • by BlueCoder (223005)
    Can we please get some more sunday night editors....

    P.S. Redirect it where you will. I'm getting tired of the monday tuesday morning flood. It's would be nice to have at least three stories ready late night sunday. Republish a few latent rehashes if you have to.
  • by nilbog (732352)
    Quick, someone bring a flag! One thing they're not making anymore of these days is land - this is a rare opportunity to increase our land ownership without having to kill anyone!
    • by potat0man (724766)
      One thing they're not making anymore of these days is land

      ummmmmmm. RTFA.
      • by nilbog (732352)
        Hence the "rare" opportunity. Besides, it was a joke for anyone who has ever seen Eddie Izzard (sp?) or Arrested Development.
  • Leave it pristine (Score:2, Interesting)

    by banditski (163064)
    Am I the only one who thinks we should agree to leave this new island pristine and uninhabited and study it as nature takes hold? I think it would be fascinating to watch as plants then birds then whatever else begin to colonize the island. Perhaps in a few hundred to a few thousand years we'd see some natural selection a la Darwin's finches on the Galapagos Islands.
  • i've always wanted a brand new island made in the last fiscal year. guess i ought to buy this one... but... who owns it?
  • Satellite pictures (Score:3, Informative)

    by cosmol (143886) on Monday January 01, 2007 @11:56AM (#17422688)
    What a great story for the new year, but it should be said that this island formed this past august.

    Someone posted these links to satellite pics on the blog page.

    http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA01899 [nasa.gov]

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/sh ownh.php3?img_id=13971 [nasa.gov]
  • by mclearn (86140) on Monday January 01, 2007 @02:30PM (#17423844) Homepage
    No kidding. I was sailing from New Zealand to Vanuatu when this happened. Our ham radio was awash in traffic as this thing surfaced. The problem with pumice is that it floats on the water and reduces the surface tension. When your boat goes through it, you get all your expensive ablative paint scraped off...and then you sink a few feet into the water. If you don't have enough freeboard (the amount of boat height from waterline to decking), then you *will* sink. The other thing is that you can't actually use your motor very well, so you have try to sail out...this is obviously a problem during nighttime when you can't see anything and you end up running right into it. That'll wake you up.
  • If islands can rise like that, it can only mean that sea levels are falling as global warming increases evaporation and...
  • Word of the Day for Monday, January 1, 2007 nascent \NAS-uhnt; NAY-suhnt\, adjective: Beginning to exist or having recently come into existence; coming into being. not that nascent is a particularly tricky word, but i just thought it was funny to see someone actually using it as intended :D
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      not that nascent is a particularly tricky word, but i just thought it was funny to see someone actually using it as intended
      As it occurred in a slashdot summary, I think the phrase you want is in fact "a fucking miracle."

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