The crew of the yacht Maiken were sailing through the south Pacific near the Vava’u Islands in Tonga when they noticed that the water in the distance had turned a strange colour.
As the crew approached, the sea mysteriously turned to stone as the volcano pushed up new land. They were actually witnessing the birth of an island when an underwater volcano erupted in the middle of the ocean.
A beach in the middle of the sea: Before long, the land mass had bubbled up out of the ocean.
They hadn’t run ashore, but had instead found themselves surrounded by a huge raft of floating pumice stone.
The crew documented the phenomenon in a series of remarkable pictures as they sailed into the formation to investigate, not knowing at that time that a volcano was erupting just a few miles away.
The unexpected event took place in August 2006.
What they didn’t yet know was that, just a few miles away, a volcano was erupting, spewing out the new land.
The crew navigated cautiously towards the plume and found an island being created before their very eyes.
They then watched as an island grew with each explosion at an underwater seamount called Home Reef.
Underwater eruptions are thought to occur dozens of times a year, but in remotes areas or at depths inaccessible to humans.
As such, this event excited scientists, but by the time researchers reached the site six months later, much of it had been washed away by waves. Not like Nishinoshima in Japan.
The eruption is thought to have had a lasting impact on the environment by attracting barnacles, corals, algae and oysters. In March 18, 2009, another undersea volcano erupted off the coast of Tonga in the South Pacific:
Eight months after the island’s birth, some of it had washed up in Queensland, Australia, some 2,000 miles away.