Sailors have discovered a massive raft of volcanic rock the size of 20,000 football fields, and its on its way toward Australia. Scientists believe that this will be a great help to marine life, and potentially could help save the Great Barrier Reef.
It’s no secret that the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most endangered marine ecosystems, and has actively been suffering from the consequences of climate change. The water has been getting warmer and more acidic, causing unwanted events like coral bleaching that washes away the colors in corals, leaving them incapable of living. The coral reef saw vast new coral decline when the coral bleaching event occurred. The bleaching destroyed algae which corals use to feed on, back in 2016 and 2017. The good news is, this raft could change everything, and help to save the Great Barrier Reef.
The massive raft of volcanic rock was discovered by sailors, suggesting it was produced by an underwater volcano near the Pacific Island of Tonga, on Aug. 7, the NASA Earth Observatory announced. The raft measured around 58 square miles.
“We entered a total rock rubble slick made up of pumice stones from marble to basketball size,” the couple said in a Facebook post. “It was a bit of a mystery, we didn’t know how deep it was [or] if we were sailing over a volcano that was active at that moment. It looked almost like there was more coming up, bubbling up from underneath.”
The couple then collaborated with Queensland University of Technology geologist Scott Bryan, sharing pictures and samples of the volcanic rock.
Bryan told The Guardian that the massive raft of volcanic rock will provide a temporary home for billions of marine organisms. The mentioned marine life includes barnacles, corals, crabs, snails and worms, which will travel toward Australia, and potentially restore the Great Barrier Reef.
Pumice are fragments of molten rock that cools rapidly, forming a lightweight bubble-filled rock that can float. The pumice floating toward Australia’s Great Barrier Reef originates from a recently discovered underwater volcano, so recent that it still remains unnamed. Further research revealed that satellites found that the volcano erupted on Aug. 7, and sailors in the area started noting the floating rock shortly thereafter.
According to Bryan, the raft of volcanic rock will arrive at the Australian shores in about seven months, passing by New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and touching the eastern Coral Sea along its way. Scientists believe that this will help restore the corals.
“It’s the right timing. So it will be able to pick up corals and other reef building organisms, and then bring them into the Great Barrier Reef,” Bryan said. “Each piece of pumice is a rafting vehicle. It’s a home and a vehicle for marine organisms to attach and hitch a ride across the deep ocean to get to Australia.”