Underwater volcano leaves giant floating rock mass - and it's heading for Australia

  • Underwater volcano leaves giant floating rock mass - and it's heading for Australia

Underwater volcano leaves giant floating rock mass - and it's heading for Australia

And scientists say the "pumice" will help boost the Great Barrier Reef's ecosystem as it floats towards Australia, by bringing new life.

Sailors had first discovered the giant sheet of volcanic rock produced by an underwater volcano near the Pacific Island of Tonga on August 9, according to the NASA Earth Observatory.

"Based on previous pumice raft occasions we've studied over the last 20 years, it will bring new wholesome corals and different reef inhabitants to the Great Barrier Reef".

The raft spotted by the Hoults has been compared in size to Manhattan, Washington and 20,000 football fields.

"We figured the pumice was at least six inches thick".

That pumice is expected to drift with the current down to the Australian coast over the next seven to 10 months, they said, where scientist believe could have a positive affect on the microorganisms there.

The raft of floating rock is so expansive it can be tracked by satellite.

"The rocks were kind of closing in around us, so we couldn't see our trail or our wake at all".

"The rubble slick went as far as we could see in the moonlight and with our spotlight", the crew wrote on Facebook.

"Each piece of pumice is a rafting vehicle".

When volcanoes erupt, people in the area are usually preoccupied with the usual threats like lava flows or ash and debris blasted from the cone.

Since the encounter, the couple has been working with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) geology professor Scott Bryan by taking samples and pictures of the unique volcanic rock formation.

"The coral reef crisis won't be solved by a robot, fans, plastic corals or an aquarium - we have to tackle the root causes, especially greenhouse gas emissions".

"We're going to have millions of individual corals and lots of other organisms all coming in together with the potential of finding new homes along our coastline", Bryan told the broadcaster.

Half of the coral in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef is now dead after two heat waves.

"The number of new corals settling on the Great Barrier Reef declined by 89% following the unprecedented loss of adult corals from global warming in 2016 and 2017", said Terry Hughes, lead author of the study.

NASA's Terra satellite detected the pumice raft August 9, and the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 captured images of it days later August 13, according to the Earth Observatory at NASA.

Another sailor, Shannon Lenz, posted incredible footage sailing through the rock raft.