A vast floating raft of volcanic rock that emerged from an underwater volcano eruption in the Pacific Ocean is slowly drifting towards the Australian coast, heartening hopes it could benefit the imperiled Great Barrier Reef.
The massive pumice raft over 20,000 football fields in size and composed of volcanic rock that is light enough to float on the surface of the water appeared only a few weeks ago, after a suspected underwater volcanic eruption near Tonga.
Satellite imagery first revealed the giant formation on the water’s surface on August 9, corresponding with reports from sailors at the time.
But the most remarkable observations came from the crew of the Australian adventure catamaran ROAM, who found themselves adrift amidst the colossal mass of floating rocks, completely covering the ocean surface.
According to Bryan and fellow QUT researchers, the floating rock slick is expected to drift New Caledonia and Vanuatu and may go through coral reef areas in the eastern Coral Sea.
Importantly, this should occur at about the same time as the region goes by its main coral spawning later in the year, which could transform the rocky pumice into a traveling ecosystem.
While the pumice and its payload of algae, barnacles, corals, and other marine lifeforms maintain the potential to assist partially regenerate the Great Barrier Reef’s organic matter, others say we have to keep these benefits in perspective.
Marine biologist Terry Hughes from James Cook University posted on social media concerning media coverage of the pumice; Reefs will be gone unless they tackle anthropogenic heating.
The coral reef crisis will not be solved by a robot, fans, plastic corals, or an aquarium; they have to sort out the root causes, especially greenhouse gas emissions.