Imagine sailing through the ocean and suddenly land rises in the middle of the sea with a plume of smoke arising from an underwater volcano. These unsuspecting sailors were witnessing the birth of an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in March 2016.
This is the incredible story of the crew of the yacht Maiken which was sailing through the south Pacific near the Vava’u Islands in Tonga. Oot the blue they noticed that the water in the distance had turned a strange colour. Then, as they approached it, the sea mysteriously turned to stone.
Main picture: The eruption occurred at an underwater seamount called Home Reef near the Vava’u Islands in Tonga
When they noticed that the water in the distance had turned a strange colour, fortunately somebody had the presence of mind to take photos to record this event for posterity.
As the crew approached, the sea mysteriously turned to stone as the volcano pushed up new land
A beach appeared in the middle of the sea. Before long, the land mass had, as one of the crew described it, bubbled up out of the ocean ‘like the Sahara with rolling hills of sand as far as the eye could see’
Their luck had not run out nor had they run ashore, but instead they found themselves surrounded by a huge raft of floating pumice stone.
The crew documented the phenomenon in a series of remarkable pictures as they sailed into formation to investigate it.
What they did not know at that time was that a volcano was erupting just a few miles away
‘Then we saw a black pillar of smoke shooting up into the air, and we understood that it had to be a volcano,’ said Mr Fransson, adding that they navigated cautiously towards the plume.
‘It was kind of a smouldering, smokey stuff. It looked like coal, and when there was an eruption, we could see the new material piling up on it.’
They then watched as an island grew before their eyes with each explosion in an area where there should be an underwater seamount called Home Reef.
Underwater eruptions are thought to occur dozens of times a year, but normally in remote areas or at depths inaccessible to humans.
They then watched as an island grew with each explosion at an underwater seamount called Home Reef
As such, this event excited scientists, but by the time researchers reached the site six months later, much of it had been washed away by waves.
The eruption is thought to have had a more lasting impact on the environment, however, by attracting barnacles, corals, algae and oysters.
Eight months after the island’s birth, some of it had washed up in Queensland, Australia, some 2,000 miles away.
Incredible moment sailors witness the birth of an island: Underwater volcanic eruption creates new landmass around stunned yachtsmen