The tsunami threat posed by a massive undersea volcanic explosion in the Pacific began to recede Sunday, but the extent of damage to Tonga remains a mystery.
The eruption cut off internet connectivity in Tonga, leaving friends and family members worldwide desperately trying to contact one another to find out whether anyone was hurt and how bad the damage was. On Sunday afternoon, even government websites and other official sources were still unavailable.
Authorities say they don’t know what triggered the explosion, but it also underlines an intriguing geological wonder: the volcano is adding a new land area to a recently formed island. In other words, we are witnessing the birth of a new island.
The same volcano erupted in 2015, creating an island. At that time, scientists predicted that it would disappear in a couple of months, but the contrary is happening. That same island increased significantly during the recent eruption. A small eruption just last month, according to scientists, increased the island’s size by 50%.
“Imagery captured the first clear view of the new island structure on 2 January 2022,” Dan Slayback, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said.
“Comparing PlanetScope imagery from mid-December, before the most recent eruption began, the surface area of the island appears to have expanded by nearly 45 percent due to ashfall.”
Life on the new island was flourishing in 2015, according to reports. Seabirds swooped in the air and scuffed along the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai volcanic shore.
It’s fantastic to see a newborn island expand, but due to the absence of internet and satellite connections, monitoring the well-being of neighboring island inhabitants will be tough for now. Tonga lost internet connectivity for two weeks in 2019 after a ship dragged an anchor over its underwater fiber optic cable, which carries internet access.
We hold Tonga and its people in high regard. Let us hope that the attention on the geological news does not shift away from the people who have been most affected by the disaster.