October 4, 2012

25,000 sq km sea of pumice floats off New Zealand

10 August 2012
A navy ship heading to the Kermadec Islands has sailed into a huge 25,000 square kilometre area of pumice pieces north of Auckland.

It is believed to be from New Zealand's third erupting volcano – the undersea mount Monowai. In the past week both Mt Tongariro and White Island have erupted. 

The navy said the raft – 463 kilometres by 55 kilometres – was spotted by an RNZAF Orion returning on patrol from Samoa. 

Lieutenant Tim Oscar, a Royal Australian Navy officer on an exchange with the NZ Navy, saw what he described as "the wierdest thing I've seen in 18 years at sea." 

"The lookout reported a shadow on the ocean ahead of us so I ordered the ship's spotlight to be trained on the area. As far ahead as I could observe was a raft of pumice moving up and down with the swell," he said. 

"The rock looked to be sitting two feet above the surface of the waves, and lit up a brilliant white colour in the spotlight. It looked exactly like the edge of an ice shelf." 


It was difficult to guess how big the pumice raft could be, but the air force had flown over and assessed its size. 

The pumice raft was about "half way to Tonga", and just past Raoul Island.




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