The crew was nearing the Vava’u Islands in Tonga when they began to notice a strange coloring of the water. Nearing closer, they found that the sea appeared to have turned to stone. Then, in a matter of minutes, the rising land mass appeared to be coming up out of the ocean, “like the Sahara with rolling hills of sand as far as the eye could see,” according to Fredrik Fransson, one of the crew members.
However, the crew had not arrived on the ground. On the contrary, it appeared that they had landed on a massive, floating, pumice stone. And while no one else on planet Earth was aware of it yet, merely miles away from them, the ocean was hastily pushing fresh land onto the ocean’s surface.
“Often in the South Pacific you have clouds on the horizon, but this time there was one that stood out,” Fransson says. “Then we saw a black pillar shooting up into the air, and we understood that it had to be a volcano.” Fransson and his shipmate cautiously navigated toward the smoke. Where the chart said there should be an underwater seamount called Home Reef, they found an island, growing one explosion at a time. “It was kind of a smoldering, smoky stuff. It looked like coal, and when there was an eruption, we could see the new material piling up on it,” says Fransson.
Scientists reacted intensely when the crew began posting what they had seen online. While it is common knowledge that such events occur, it is very rare that people are able to see them firsthand., the eruption led to the attraction of barnacles, corals, algae and oysters. Within months of the island’s birth, some of it had actually washed up on Queensland, Australia, which is located 2,000 miles away.
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