Flowers and Owls Have Already Made a Home on One of the World’s Newest Islands

Scientists have found signs of life on one of the world’s newest islands. In December 2014, a volcanic eruption began in the Pacific Ocean, creating a land mass and a whole new island was formed. Four years later, the island has sprung vegetation.

Unofficially known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, named after the two islands it is nestled between. The island was created from a submarine volcano that erupted sending a stream of rock and ash into the air.

Just fours years afters its birth, pink flowering plants, sooty tern birds, and barn owls have already made the small island home.

A team from the Sea Education Association and Nasa visited the small land mass in October, having previously observed the new island through satellite imaging.

While underwater volcanic eruptions form little islands frequently, but they come and go, eventually eroding until they are submerged in ocean again. Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai is one of just three volcano created islands in the last 150 years that have lasted more than just a few months.

In 2017, NASA predicted the new island could last between 6 and 30 years, but now researchers are not so optimistic, observing that the island was eroding faster than previously predicted.



Photo: Screenshot from “The Birth of a New Island” by NASA Goddard