NATION

Pumice Menace Hits Parts Of Lau Group

In some islands in Lau the pumice raft is so thick that people are standing on it. Director Marine Resources Apete Soro said the pumice raft could affect marine life as well as shipping.
12 Sep 2019 11:30
Pumice Menace Hits Parts Of Lau Group
Children play on pumice at the Tubou Jetty, Lakeba.

Islands in the southern Lau Group are facing a pumice attack as a result of undersea volcanic activity in Tonga.

As a result, pumice has been slowly drifting towards Fiji. In some islands in Lau the pumice raft is so thick that people are standing on it.

Director Mineral Resources Apete Soro said the pumice raft could affect marine life as well as shipping.

According to an advisory sent by the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji, all mariners were advised that a large mass of pumice from recent volcanic activity in Tonga was sighted drifting in the vicinity of Lakeba, Oneata and Aiwa Islands.

The advisory stated the mass was moving in a westerly direction.

“Pumice stranding is expected on the beaches of islands in the Lau Group and may continue drifting into Lomaiviti, Vanua Levu and Viti Levu,” said the advisory.

Mr Soro said there was submarine volcanic activity in Tonga.

“We are yet to gauge the full effect of the volcano and are in the process of contacting Tonga on what is happening,” he said.

There have been reports of yachts out at sea between Fiji and Tonga encountering the pumice, some as big as basketballs.

Reports and pictures from Tubou in Lau show that the pumice raft is so thick that children are playing on it without sinking. Similar pictures have emerged from Lakeba as well.

This is not the first time this has happened.

Similar happenings were reported in 1979, 1984 and 2006 when underwater volcanic eruptions near Tonga created large pumice rafts, some as large as 30 kilometres that floated hundreds of kilometres to Fiji.

What is pumice?

Pumice is a light-coloured, extremely porous igneous rock that forms during explosive volcanic eruptions.

It is used as aggregate in lightweight concrete, as landscaping aggregate and as an abrasive in a variety of industrial and consumer products.

Many specimens have a high enough porosity that they can float on water until they slowly become waterlogged.

Edited by Epineri Vula

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