Massive pumice indicates 3rd active volcano around New Zealand

Last Updated: Fri, Aug 10, 2012 07:20 hrs

-ANI): A floating mass of the volcanic rock, pumice, reportedly covering 25,000 square km, has been found floating in the South Pacific, indicating a third volcano is active near New Zealand.

The New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF) said Friday the floating pumice, measuring 250 nautical miles long and 30 nautical miles wide, was first spotted by a New Zealand air force Orion on a maritime patrol from Samoa to New Zealand.

The Orion relayed the information to New Zealand navy vessel HMNZS Canterbury, which spotted the pumice late Thursday about 85 nautical miles west southwest of Raoul Island, one of the Kermadec Islands that lie 750 to 1,000 km northeast of New Zealand.

Lieutenant Tim Oscar, a Royal Australian Navy officer on exchange with the Royal New Zealand Navy, described the pumice as "the weirdest thing I've seen in 18 years at sea."

"The lookout reported a shadow on the ocean ahead of us so I ordered the ship's spotlight to be trained on the area," Oscar said in the NZDF statement.

"As far ahead as I could observe was a raft of pumice moving up and down with the swell," he said.

"The rock looked to be sitting 2 feet (60 cm) above the surface of the waves, and lit up a brilliant white color in the spotlight. It looked exactly like the edge of an ice shelf."

Oscar said he had been briefed by a volcanologist from New Zealand's Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science (GNS Science) the previous day when the ship encountered another area of pumice from an undersea volcano.

"I knew the pumice was lightweight and posed no danger to the ship. Nonetheless it was quite daunting to be moving toward it at 14 knots. It took about three to four minutes to travel through the raft of pumice and as predicted there was no damage," he said.

"As we moved through the raft of pumice we used the spotlights to try and find the edge - but it extended as far as we could see. "

HMNZS Canterbury was en route to Raoul Island with a party of GNS scientists aboard at the time.

The Commanding Officer, Commander Sean Stewart, changed course to intercept the pumice and retrieve samples, which would be analyzed to determine which volcano they came from, said the statement.

According to GNS Science, the underwater volcano, Monowai, had been active along the Kermadec Arc and the pumice could be a result of that activity, said the NZDF statement.

The find comes after eruptions from Mount Tongariro, in New Zealand's central North Island, late Monday and White Island, a marine volcano about 50 km off the east of the North Island, two days later.

The GNS scientists aboard the Canterbury believed the volcanic activity of Tongariro, White Island and along the Kermadec arc was unrelated, said the NZDF statement. (Xinhua-ANI)

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