Pumice raft (Photo Credit: JOSHUA STEVENS/NASA/TWITTER)
A couple named Michael and Larissa Hoult recently spotted a giant volcanic rock floating the ocean which is heading towards Australia. Yes, you read it right. Michael and Larissa Hoult, who were sailing from the Vava'u islands of Tonga to Fiji, when they found a "total rock rubble slick" extending for kilometres around them, reported CNN.
Talking to the CNN, Larissa Hoult said, "It was quite eerie, actually." "The whole ocean was matte."
The rock found by Michael and Larissa Hoult is called as pumice raft. A pumice raft is a mass of floating, porous rock that forms when a volcano erupts from the ocean floor. Interestingly, the pumice raft spotted by the Hoults has been compared in size to Manhattan, Washington and 20,000 football ovals.
In Facebook post, the couple said that they received an August 14 email warning of pumice fields, which had been spotted by other sailors and detected from space by NASA satellites. “By the evening of August 15, they were surrounded by the rocks and their sulfur smell,” Hoults said.
Michael Hoult told CNN that the rocks were kind of closing in around us, so we couldn't see our trail or our wake at all. "We could just see the edge where it went back to regular water - shiny water - at night," he added. The couple also posted photos of their discovery to Facebook.
After being observing the photos captured by Hoults, Scott Bryan, a geologist and associate professor at Queensland University of Technology, who has been studying underwater volcanic pumice for two decades, said ABC that the rock is slowly floating toward Australia's coastline. The rock could arrive to the Australian coast in 7 to 12 months with a host of marine life ready to potentially revive the badly damaged Great Barrier Reef.
"In this 150-odd square kilometres of pumice out there right now, there's probably billions to trillions of pieces of pumice all floating together, and each piece of pumice is a vehicle for some marine organism," Bryan told ABC.Bryan further said, “Organisms such as algae, barnacles, snails, crabs and possibly even corals could attach themselves to the pumice raft, serving as a "natural mechanism for species to colonise, restock and grow in a new environment."
"The pumice raft has the potential to deposit new, healthy coral around the reef, Bryan said. "It's just one way that nature can help promote regeneration," he added.
On August 9, NASA's Terra satellite detected the pumice raft. According to the Earth Observatory at NASA, the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 captured images of pumice raft on August 13. The photos showed the rock floating near Late Island in Tonga. Around the raft was discoloured water, a sign that the volcano that produced it was just below, the Earth Observatory reported.