New Island in Pacific Ocean Baffles Scientists

An island that has popped up in the South Pacific ocean has left scientists mystified. The island formed between December 2014 and January 2015 after a volcanic eruption near Tonga, online journal Science Alert reports. It sits between two Tongan islands and has been given the name Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai by locals, referring to the islands next to it and the hidden underwater volcano that helped form it. The formation of new volcanic islands is rare and scientists have been studying it to understand its unique terrain. Hunga Tonga is the only volcanic island to have emerged in the past 150 years, and its odd, gravel-like landscape has some scientists comparing it to Mars. “Most of it is this black gravel, I won’t call it sand – pea-sized gravel – and we’re mostly wearing sandals so it’s pretty painful, because it gets under your foot,” NASA scientist Dan Slayback told the space agency’s blog Earth Expeditions after his expedition to the island in October last year. “And then there’s clay washing out of the cone. In the satellite images, you see this light-colored material. It’s mud, this light-colored clay mud. “It’s very sticky, so even though we’d seen it we didn’t really know what it was, and I’m still a little baffled of where it’s coming from because it’s not ash.”

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