A Huge Floating Island Of Pumice Is Coming To Gently Exfoliate The Australian Coast

If you’re travelling in the open ocean, it stands to reason that the medium you would expect to predominately be travelling through is water. You don’t have to be Jessica Watson to know that. For the most part, you would expect to peer over the railings and stare into the deep, mystifying blue of the ocean. You would not expect to see, say, a whole bunch of rocks. This would tend to indicate that something has gone very, very wrong.

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This is the sight that greeted Shannon Lenz, as she was travelling near Vava’u in Tonga. As you can see from about the 50-second mark of the video below, Lenz chanced upon a surreal landscape of floating rocks gently rolling with the swell:

These rocks, it turns out, had been cast up to the surface by an underwater volcanic eruption near Tonga. The eruption created a ‘raft’ of pumice, which is essentially solidified lava that’s so porous and full of gas that it floats.

That same raft was also encountered by sailors Michael and Larissa Hoult, who described the phenomenon on Facebook asa total rock rubble slick made up of pumice stones from marble to basketball size“. The raft forced them to slow down dramatically, and at one point forced them to stop after pumice caught between their rudder and the hull of their vessel jammed up their steering.

Despite these setbacks, they seem pretty stoked about the experience:

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Pictured: A stoked pumice-finder. (Source: Facebook.)

The raft covers an area of approximately 150 square kilometres, which is roughly three times the area of Manhattan and, obviously, big enough that it is very, very visible via satellite.

A Raft of Rock
Source: NASA, USGS / Joshua Stevens.

The raft is slowly making its way over to Australia, with Queensland University of Technology geologist Scott Bryan telling the ABC that it should start washing up on our fair shores within the next seven to 12 months. Save up all of your gross foot calluses for then, I guess.