Joan Larsen Presents: An Island is Born

Posted on November 20, 2013

3



By Joan Larsen

The ocean off Iceland was fairly calm fifty years ago when a fishing boat spotted fire in the distance.  In this empty ocean, it would have to have been another fishing boat burning to cause such color in the skies.  The crew sped toward the scene, only to see a volcano arising from the ocean, spewing lava skyward, endlessly.  As they watched from afar now, an island began to form, over time becoming a major island that was called Surtsey. 

Surtsey Island, off Iceland.

Surtsey Island, off Iceland.

As a volcano lover from childhood, I waited years to find a small plane to fly me over the island . . . but even now, only a few scientists have been allowed on the island to understand how an island draws birds to nest and floating islands of vegetation to drift in and sprout.  My pleas to actually land on Surtsey – even by rowboat – naturally fell on deaf ears.  But I tried more than once.

And so I continue to watch it from the sky.

But  then – in the summer of 2006 – at the opposite end of the world, the remote South Pacific, Fredrik Fransson and  the passengers on the  private yacht “Maiken” were drifting in the crystal clear waters in nowhere, enjoying their privacy, when again the unbelievable happened.  An island, full blown in a short time, emerged from the empty ocean.

With the technology of our times, the passengers were able to capture the story on film as it was happening.  And so, for the first time, we can see the scenes themselves of the birth of an island. 

"And then we sailed into a vast, many miles wide, belt of densely packed pumice."

“And then we sailed into a vast, many miles wide, belt of densely packed pumice.”

"...it had to be pumice from a volcanic eruption."

“…it had to be pumice from a volcanic eruption.”

"We were so fascinated and busy taking pictures that we plowed a couple of hundred meters into this surreal floating stone field before we realized that we had to turn back.... the bottom paint was scrubbed away at places along the waterline.... Like we'd sailed through sandpaper."

“We were so fascinated and busy taking pictures that we plowed a couple of hundred meters into this surreal floating stone field before we realized that we had to turn back…. the bottom paint was scrubbed away at places along the waterline…. Like we’d sailed through sandpaper.”

...the volcanic island rose from the sea in front of us."

“…we identified the active volcano as the one close to Home reef, and we are on our way there now to take a closer look.”

"We are two miles from it and we can see the volcano clearly. One mile in diameter and with four peaks and a central crater smoking with steam..."

“We are two miles from it and we can see the volcano clearly. One mile in diameter and with four peaks and a central crater smoking with steam…”

"...and once in a while an outburst high in the sky with lava and ashes."

“…and once in a while an outburst high in the sky with lava and ashes.”

"...most likely we were the first humans to see the new creation. "

“…most likely we were the first humans to see the new creation.  So you might have heard about the sailor superstition that you should “never leave on a Friday”. Well, we did and the sea turned to stone, it is hard to get a stronger sign than that. “

A satellite image, courtesy of Jesse Allen at NASA Earth Observatory, showing the new island and the pumice raft encountered by Fredrik Fransson and the "Maiken."

A satellite image, courtesy of Jesse Allen at NASA Earth Observatory, showing the new island and the pumice raft encountered by Fredrik Fransson and the “Maiken.”

end-volcano

“Volcanoes are one way Earth gives birth to itself.”

– Robert Gross

JoanAvatarWriter Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth.  But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again.  She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”

 

Advertisements