May 2015 – SOUTH PACIFIC, Tonga – A new island that formed in the Pacific after an underwater volcano eruption off Tonga has begun to erode and is “getting smaller.” The cone-shaped island – about half a mile wide and just under a mile long – formed in January about 40 miles north-west of Nuku’alofa, the capital, after an eruption at the Hunga Tonga volcano. Scientists predicted that the land mass would be fragile and was likely to gradually disappear – a prediction that has now been borne out by an expedition by locals to examine the island. A Tongan shipping firm, Friendly Island Shipping Agency, sent a boat to the island last week and carried local geologists who briefly went ashore.
Mosese Fakatou, a manager from the firm who travelled to the island, said the island was stable but its surface had begun to erode. “The geologists think it is getting smaller,” he told The Telegraph. “It looks like streaks of erosion probably from rain in the past few weeks. We could see the marks on the island.” Mr Fakatou said the island “looks all right” and the volcano was no longer active. “We sent some people ashore – some geologists – and they took some measurements of the island,” he said. New islands have been known to form due to volcanic activity but tend to disappear, often within weeks. The latest island, which has yet to be officially named, is believed to have formed after a volcano exploded underwater and then expanded. “This is not the first time – it has happened before,” Pesi Fonua, editor of the Matangi Tonga news website, told The Telegraph. “It is still very much there but it is not what it was after the eruption was formed. It is slowly eroding into the sea. It is very slow.” –The Telegraph