Australian research catamaran ROAM was the first to intercept a giant floating pumice mass in the South Pacific. He was being watched from satellites since August 9, the supposed date of the eruption of the underwater volcano, which generated this mass of stones. The eruption took place near the island of Tonga, and now a rock mass the size of a metropolis is approaching Vanuatu and will drift further, as far as Australia itself.
According to the sailors from the catamaran, the thickness of the pumice layer above the water is at least 15 cm. There are fragments ranging in size from a bead to a basketball, which were knocked together by the wind and waves. The pumice stone covers the water surface with a solid gray carpet, creating a surreal spectacle. The catamaran moved through the congestion for 6-8 hours without encountering open water.
Volcanic pumice - the material is not only lightweight and able to float on water, but also extremely useful for the marine environment. Now the fragments are bare, but then each stone will turn into a kind of vehicle for corals, algae, small fish and other organisms. At the end of the year, coral breeding season begins in this part of the ocean, and scientists are very hopeful that pumice will help spread the young as far as possible.
Studies of such floating islands over the past 20 years have proven that they play a large role in the health of coral reefs. Moving with pumice, living organisms can leave dangerous places, cross large areas and migrate to new territories. They themselves cannot do it, therefore such an accumulation of stones is a real find. The drift rate is not high and it will take more weeks before the rocks collect payload and eventually "dock" somewhere in the Great Barrier Reef. And it will certainly do him good, scientists say.