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Mystery mud appears on newly-formed island


Posted on Tuesday, 5 February, 2019 | Comment icon 3 comments

Plants have already started to take hold on the island. Image Credit: NASA / Dan Slayback
A Pacific island that rose from the sea around three years ago has already been colonized by plants and birds.
Formed through volcanic processes in the ocean surrounding Tonga, the island has been of particular interest to scientists because it is one of the few new islands in the last 150 years to have lasted more than a few months, thus providing a unique opportunity for study.

Now, for the first time, NASA scientists have actually visited the island in person, revealing that seeds have already begun to grow there and colonies of birds have already started to roost.

Most intriguing of all was the discovery of a strange clay-like mud which has so far managed to defy explanation as it is unclear what it is made of or where it is coming from.

"In the satellite images, you see this light-colored material," said NASA's Dan Slayback. "It's mud, this light-coloured clay mud. It's very sticky. So even though we'd seen it we didn't really know what it was, and I'm still a little baffled of where it's coming from. Because it's not ash."

By studying the island's progress over the next few years, it will be possible to get a better understanding of how life takes hold on a newly-formed landmass.

The researchers believe that the island could ultimately last upwards of three decades.


Source: The Guardian | Comments (3)

Tags: Tonga, Island

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Not A Rockstar on 5 February, 2019, 17:07
It doesn't go into detail about the comment that sea water had an effect on the lava which made it harder than normal - which has retained the island shape after an early erosion phase, but that makes me think the "mystery mud" could be a by-product of that process. 
Comment icon #2 Posted by Nnicolette on 5 February, 2019, 21:00
Is it pyroclastic flow? Or silt collecting ?
Comment icon #3 Posted by paperdyer on 6 February, 2019, 3:50
Sounds like this island means to stay.  The bird know it to be stable or they'd stay away..  Volcanic soil is very rich.  Maybe a farming colony can start there in the coming years.


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