2007/05/14

Witness To Creation

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Last year, Fredrik, a Swede who was relocating from San Fransisco to Brisbane, and his uncle Hakan, sailed Fredrik's 36 foot yacht, "Maiken", across the Pacific, stopping at many South Pacific islands along the way.

After leaving Tonga for Fiji on August 12th, they came upon a very curious sight.

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No, this was not a shoal or a beach, but rather a "raft" of small pumice rocks floating on the ocean's surface. Pumice, as you know, is an igneous rock produced when lava from a volcano cools very quickly above ground. It is actually a kind of glass and some samples are so full of air pockets that they float on water. Somewhere on the sea floor near their boat was an active volcano called "Home Reef" that was erupting and making the pumice. Comforting thought.

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As they sailed through the pumice, leaving a cleared path in the boat's wake, the rock acted like sandpaper, removing a little of the bottom paint at the waterline.

The volcano was erupting, and they watched in amazement as it broke the surface of the ocean, creating a new island right before their eyes.

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They took several remarkable photos, more of which can be found on their blog, linked at the end of this post, parts of which are written in English and Swedish.

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The new island is located south and a bit west of the Vava'u group of Tonga, which is where Robert Bryce lives, who wrote the guest post for Pacific Islander: "The Kingdom of Tonga - A Paradox In Paradise".

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The island created by "Home Reef" volcano is located in the lower left corner of the red box, near the island "Late" (la-tay). The Vavau' group is further up and to the right and is only about 100 km from the new island.

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Satellite images show the island as about 500 meters wide and 1500 long, with a water filled crater within it.

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A fountain of lava shoots straight up into the air - or perhaps it is where Maui, the Polynesian demigod said to have fished the islands up out of the sea, is pulling on Home Reef to create a new land.

Be sure to check out the blog of Fredrik, his uncle Hakan, and Jenny (who joined them in Fiji), with posts and pictures of their entire voyage: Fredrik and Crew on Maiken.

Their story sure stirs my wanderlust and has me longing for a sailboat and the South Pacific!

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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed in
the things that you didn't do than in the ones you did do.
So throw off the bow lines.
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.

-Mark Twain

13 comments:

Don Snabulus said...

My gosh, what a site that must have been. My experience with pumice predates the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. This previous mountain had a cone reminiscent of Mt. Fuji and a trail had been pounded in slopes of pure pumice. If we happened to veer from the switchbacks to climb ourselves, we would slide a step for every two taken upward. Grabbing an armload of pumice was lighter than picking up a similar pile of bath towels.

Now, that perfect cone of Mt. St. Helens is gone and so is my brother, whom cancer denuded as surely as that violent eruption in 1980.

Seeing a new island form thusly is as much an affirmation of the life of our earth's crust as the arrival of a newborn child would offset the passing of a loved one.

Pandabonium said...

Don - Climbing Mr. St. Helens - that must of been quite an experience, and one to reflect on when it erupted.

Thank you for sharing that you lost your brother. The loss of a loved one is universal in life, but not so when it is cut short - a sibling, a child. Value the time you had with him and hold dear his memory. I know that you do.

Life and our very planet are always changing. Always in a process of renewal.

"as the arrival of a newborn child would offset the passing of a loved one" - well said.

QUASAR9 said...

Wow Panda, Awesome!

Sail thru the pumice as if it were soft ice?

Pumice solidifies and hardens too, must have been like slicing a wake thru sandpaper - literally!

Swinebread said...

A new island! I wonder if the scientists have been out to see it yet?

Pandabonium said...

Quasar9 -Apparently, pumice "rafts" as they are called have been spotted in many parts of the south western Pacific in recent decades. The pieces are cool and not fused together- the surface tension of the water keeps them together (just as Cheerios clump together on the surface of a bowl of milk. Sort of soggy sandpaper.

Swinebread - much too dangerous to go walking about on I think. This is a very active area and the island might even sink back into the sea. It is also still very hot.

Olivia said...

Reminds me of the article I read in a 1958 National Geographic (that I bought at the library!) about the formation of the island of Surtsey off the coast of Iceland.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Thanks for the details. I'd read it only in a short piece of writing. The pictures make it more real.
Have you been to Tonga yet? I went one time for the New Year season - when I was much younger and single - had a great time but there was just too much hospitality and pork!
w.

Pandabonium said...

Olivia - great magazine. Iceland is sure an active area volcanically.

Wendy - this story totally slipped under my radar until the other day. What an experience that must have been. I've not made it to Tonga yet - just had Tongan friends on Maui and talked to people who moved to there. We plan to explore the south Pacific using Fiji as a base. Pork isn't on my menu, but I'm happy eat yams. :p

The Moody Minstrel said...

That would be a spectacular sight, indeed!

Hmm...according to Shinto tradition, the first deities summoned into being a pair of deities, the goddess Izanami and the god Izanagi, and charged them with creating the first land on Earth. This they did by churning up the sea with a spear, causing it to throw up an island which they then made their home. Then they tried to mate.

Unfortunately, the mating was botched (because the goddess Izanami spoke first), so they produced two children that were so deformed that they couldn't qualify as deities and were set adrift in a boat. Then the couple tried again, this time with the god Izanagi speaking first (thus satisfying sexist tradition), and they gave birth to the isles of Japan.

Hmm...mythology, or a metaphor for the volcanic birth of the islands?

(Actually, Izanami gave birth to many other islands and deities, but then she finally died in childbirth, and Izanagi was so mad he killed the newborn child, creating thousands of new deities in the process. These became the ancestors of life on Earth. After that Izanagi and Izanami became involved in an underworld romance epic that is uncannily similar to Orpheus and Eurydice.)

For more info

Robin said...

I love sailing, wish I can do that more often.

It is definitely less painful than kayaking, (excuse me, Unker)

I have always complain in my kayaking trip to Unker, that he should put a motor at my kayak so that I dun need to paddle like crazy on the way back.

Pandabonium said...

Moody - interesting. thanks. funny how so many ancient myths are similar around the world - or at least have common threads. well, they were trying to explain the same things...

Robin - I love sailing too. I know the feeling when paddling home. I used to want a small sail on my kayak in Maui, but then I would probably have grumbled about the extra gear I would have to carry when it was not in use.

YD said...

The creation and demise of the island reminds me of the Buddhist saying of 成住灭空. (creation, inhabitation, demise, emptiness)

To have witness the birth of a new island must have been amazing! While in Santorini, the locals told us that the volcano would still erupt in the future, but life still goes on there until the day comes. That set me thinking a lot... about life, about survival, about attachment...

Thanks for the meaningful post.

Pandabonium said...

YD- thank you. Having lived for nearly 3 decades at the foot of a mountain which may well erupt again, and now regularly experiencing earth quakes, I have an appreciation for the vitality of our planet and the one constant in life - change.