On Thursday August 9th, a New Zealand Air Force plane flying about 1,000 kilometers northeast of the island's biggest city, Auckland, encountered a strange sight - A brilliant white light that resembled an ice shelf, sparkling from the clear blue waters of the South Pacific ocean.
They immediately notified their superiors, who in turn requested some scientists to accompany them aboard a Navy ship and investigate the cause of the unusual glow. Upon closer examination, they discovered that the floating objects that stretched out over 10,000 square miles were not pieces of ice, but golf-ball-size pumice rocks that were floating atop the surface of the ocean.
While it took some clever sleuth work to identify the source of the rocks, NASA satellite images were finally able to trace it to the lava spewed by an underwater volcano called Havre Seamount that lies south of New Zealand's uninhabited Kermadec Islands. The scientists believe that the underground activity was caused by the 157 small earthquakes ranging from 3.0 to 4.8 that rocked the area between July 17th and 18th.
Fortunately, pumice which are igneous rocks formed when the volcanic lava solidifies, are soft and light and cause no harm to ships floating across. However, as the captain of the Navy ship attested, it was still a little intimidating to maneuver across a rock formation the size of Belgium!
This is not the only volcanic surprise the New Zealanders have had to deal with in the last two weeks. On August 5th, Mt. Tongariro, a complex structure of volcanic cones that have developed over a period of 275,000 years, suddenly came alive after lying dormant for over 110 years, spewing out magma boulders and ash that covered a large part of the country's North Island and causing major flight disruptions. Luckily, no one was injured.
If that wasn't enough the country's largest and most active crater, the White Island volcano erupted on Tuesday, August 8th, after being silent for almost 12 years. Since this volcano cannot seem to stop for months and sometimes even years once its gets started, scientists are concerned that it may be just the beginning of many more eruptions to come!