Sometimes we see maps of what the world used to look like – the country shapes, composition, and format are different and unfamiliar. It’s hard to imagine a physical world different than the one we already know so well. However, a very recent discovery of a new island forming off the Tonga Coast in the South Pacific may bring to reality just how modifications to our world are constantly in process.
Tonga, which is officially known as the Kingdom of Tonga, is an archipelago in the southern Pacific Ocean, made up of 176 islands. In total, the islands have 290 square miles of surface area in a 270,000 square mile area of the ocean. The new island is about 500 meters wide, one mile long, and 250 meters high and joins two other volcanic islets – Hung Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai. Though tiny by most standards, it has a more significant presence in an area composed of very small islands.
Of the 176 islands of Tonga, only 52 are inhabited by people; and of the 103,000 people, 70% live on the island of Tongatapu. The new island off the Tonga Coast, which is a result of a crater forming following a volcano eruption, is not likely to draw any inhabitants any time soon. Moreover, people are not supposed to even visit.
According to BBC, Matt Watson, an expert in natural hazards at University of Bristol, explained, “It will be very loose and unconsolidated material,” he said. “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.”
However, despite public concerns, three natives from Tonga visited the island Saturday, and took remarkable photographs that have been circling the web. One of the men, Gianpierro Orbassano, told Tonga’s Matangi Online, “It was a perfect day, with fantastic views – bright blue sky and the sea was the same color as the sky.”
The men also said the floor surface was still hot and the green lake in the center of had an intense odor of sulphur.
Photo Courtesy of Dana Stephenson/Getty
Some experts believe the island will erode back into the Pacific within a few months, but the three native explorers think its height may make it stick around long enough for people to visit, and even for some animals to migrate there.
Whatever the case, the forming of this island off Tonga Coast and the photographs that have accompanied it have brought a lot of attention to this oft-forgotten area of the world. Moreover, they are helping people understand that the world is in a constant state of flux.
Many additional photos can be found here.
Photo Courtesy of PLEIADES © CNES 2015 -/DISTRIBUTION: AIRBUS DEFENCE AND