Bizarre floating rocks found in ocean

2012-08-10 21:04

Wellington - A huge cluster of floating volcanic rocks covering almost 26 000km² has been found drifting in the Pacific, the New Zealand navy said on Friday.

The strange phenomenon, which witnesses said resembled a polar ice shelf, was made up of lightweight pumice expelled from an underwater volcano, the navy said.

An air force plane spotted the rocks on Thursday about 1 000km offshore from New Zealand and warned a navy warship that it was heading toward them.

Lieutenant Tim Oscar said that while he knew his ship the HMNZS Canterbury was in no danger from the pumice, which is solidified lava filled with air bubbles, it was still "the weirdest thing I've seen in 18 years at sea".

"As far ahead as I could observe was a raft of pumice moving up and down with the swell," he said.

"The rock looked to be sitting two foot [50cm] above the surface of the waves and lit up a brilliant while colour in the spotlight. It looked exactly like the edge of an ice shelf."

Scientists aboard the ship said the pumice probably came from an underwater volcano called Monowai, which has been active recently.

They said the phenomenon was unrelated to increased volcanic activity in New Zealand this week, including an eruption at Mount Tongariro that sent an ash cloud 6 000m into the atmosphere.

  • - 2012-08-11 08:07

    This pumice washes up along the beach on the West Coast. We usually collect the larger pieces and after washing them they are submerged in paraffin for a short while and hey presto: A reusable fire-lighter for the braai.

      robbie.crouch - 2012-08-11 11:18

      If you pick up enough you can use it to replace your "Hot Rock" braai rocks that have become grease encased too.

  • Johan De Beer - 2012-08-11 09:50

    The reflection from this mass should assist against global warming, similar to ice. No?

      aristar.aristary - 2012-08-13 19:40

      Not on such a small scale. If the rafts were the size of the Polar ice cap maybe, but unlikely

  • robbie.crouch - 2012-08-11 11:15

    Bizarre my foot! Perfectly natural phenomena for a volcano near or in water.

  • fanie.gerber1972 - 2012-08-11 11:31

    Nothing bizare about it - it is pumice

  • gail.hayesbean - 2012-08-11 13:32

    Could this possibly be used as cement/plaster? It is really fascinating as I have just been reading about Mayan building practices and they made use of plaster - perhaps because that area was gifted by volcanic matter like this. I have to ask how they can say with any certainty that the undersea volcanic activity is categorically notlinked to the eruptions in New Zealand itself?

  • aristar.aristary - 2012-08-13 19:39

    Probably from the new volcano off Tonga which has been coughing out vast pumice rafts for the last five years.

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