Mysterious Island of Pumice Spotted on the South Pacific
By on August 12th, 2012

Sheets of pumice forming a giant floating island have been spotted in the South Pacific. The size of the island is larger than the entire area of Israel. The whole island is 480 kilometers in length and about 50 kilometers in width. The New Zealand Royal Air Force spotted the floating pumice raft southwest of Raoul Island.

A screenshot from the youtube video uploaded by the NZ Air Force (see below) Courtesy: Youtube

Pumice and how it forms

Pumice is made from lava which cools off too fast. The trapped air pockets in the rocks makes it both porous and buoyant. An underwater volcano could’ve created this gigantic pumice island. A possible candidate is the Monowai seamount, along the Kermadec arc which has been active in recent times. The sheet reportedly looked like a giant floating icesheet.

Samples of the pumice float have been collected by at least two research groups, one of them being Australian government supported. These will help answer the question as to where these come from.

Here is a Youtube video uploaded by the New Zealand Royal Air Force:

How pumice is related to the very origin of life

Interestingly, pumice rocks and pumice sheets are not just an interesting artifact. They might be vital to life on the planet as we know it! Pumice rocks could’ve provided nice habitat for early Earth microbes. They could cling on these and populate themselves.

Further, chunks of pumice could’ve ferried animals across vast stretches of water, maybe hop islands! Remote islands could’ve been seeded like this, which then evolved uniquely, giving rise to insular populations of animals not seen anywhere else in the world. So pumice may have been the substrate on which life formed and also a mode of transport for developed life forms!

Yes, science does hold a lot more mysteries than dreamt of in your philosophy, my Horatio!

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Author: Debjyoti Bardhan Google Profile for Debjyoti Bardhan
Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.

Debjyoti Bardhan has written and can be contacted at debjyoti@techie-buzz.com.

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