A new piece of land has formed in the South Pacific island nation of Tonga back in January of the year 2015, after a volcanic eruption left a mass of terrain extending into the ocean. Although such formations are usually destroyed by the ocean in a matter of a few months, this case is the third time in the past 150 years that the terrain has formed and lasted this long.
The formed terrain is in-between two islands, more specifically between Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai, therefore, it is now known as HTHH – meaning a combination of the initials of the two islands.
Four years after the land has been formed, scientistic have decided to visit it. Although there is no map of the newly formed land, as Unilad writes, scientists have spent these last few years examining it via satellite images, in order to make a 3D model of the shape it contains and how the ocean might have altered it through the years.
Dan Slayback, a research scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland claimed that most of the land is ‘black gravel’, he said:
I won’t call it sand – pea sized gravel – and we’re mostly wearing sandals so it’s pretty painful because it gets under your foot.
He admitted the land wasn’t as flat as it seemed from the satellite, claiming it was “pretty flat but there’s still some gradients and the gravels have formed some cool patterns from the wave action.” He proceeded:
And then there’s clay washing out of the cone. In the satellite images, you see this light-colored material. It’s mud, this light-colored clay mud. It’s very sticky.
So even though we’d seen it we didn’t really know what it was, and I’m still a little baffled of where it’s coming from. Because it’s not ash.
There is also vegetation that has begun to grow on the land, suspected to have been seeded by bird droppings. However, although it has lasted this long, scientists are still not sure whether it will be here for long. Dan proceeded to reveal that the island is ‘eroding by rainfall much more quickly’ than he had imagined. He said:
We were focused on the erosion on the south coast where the waves are crashing down, which is going on.
It’s just that the whole island is going down, too. It’s another aspect that’s made very clear when you’re standing in front of these huge erosion gullies. Okay, this wasn’t here three years ago, and now it’s two meters deep.
However, scientists are hoping to induct further studies of the island and return there for another visit next year – hoping to conclude how it was created and how much longer it will be here.
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