Amazing Geological Oddity: New Pacific Island Reappears 100 Years after its Destruction by a Typhoon


This is the amazing story about a Pacific island…

That grew back after being destroyed by a devastating typhoon 100 years ago.

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New island formation in Pacific atoll February 2014. Photo: Geomorphology

You probably remember the formation of three new islands after a powerful earthquake off the coast of Pakistan last year. Well, a similar event occurred in a Pacific atoll.

In 1905, a devastating typhoon swept over the Nadikdik atoll (part of the remote Marshall Islands) in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, killing the majority of inhabitants (2 inhabitants survived) and stripping this small piece of earth back to the bare coral.

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Nadikdik atoll geological oddity. Photo: Daily Mail

Based on aerial photograph studies, scientists of the University of Auckland have shown that the islands have ‘grown back’ from a sandy deposit to lush reef islands just over a century on.

Imagine 100 years are incredibly fast on a geological scale (earth formed 4,568 billion years ago)!

The paper’s abstract explains:

In 1905 a devastating typhoon hit Nadikdik Atoll (5°54’ N and 172°09’ E) in the southern Marshall Islands. Evidence suggests that large sections of reef islands on Nadikdik were overwashed and destroyed.

Comparison of aerial photographs taken in 1945 and modern satellite imagery provides a unique record of the geomorphic adjustment of islands after the typhoon. Between 1945 and 2010 the vegetated area of islands on Nadikdik grew from 0.74 to 0.90 km2. Observed changes to Nadikdik reef islands manifested through a range of styles and were largely accretionary.

Of note, the formation of a new island was tracked from an embryonic deposit to a fully vegetated and stable island over a 61 year period. Similarly, a number of previously discrete islands have agglomerated and formed a single larger island.

These changes were rapid and indicate that reef island formation can occur quickly. Evidence suggests that despite the typhoon occurring over a century ago the geomorphic adjustment of islands is still on-going.

According to the New Zealand Herald, this study will help scientists to better understand how new islands are created, which is of interest as people are worried about rising sea levels due to climate change.

Everything has a start and an end… And sometimes, in the case of this island for example, there is also resurrection. Amazing, no?

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