A volcanic eruption from the Hunga Tonga volcano near the South Pacific island nation of Tonga has created a whole new island, and it could soon become the country's latest tourist attraction, according to a local official.
Tonga's lands and natural resources ministry said the island was approximately 800 meters (about 2,600 feet) wide and 1.3 kilometers (about 0.8 miles) long. Its highest point is estimated to be about 250 meters (800-plus feet), reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It's an impressive land mass considering it was only ocean not long ago.
A Tonga hotel owner, Gianpiero Orbassano, became the new island's first visitor after recently landing at one of its beaches. He arrived with a friend and his son, and the group proceeded to climb all the way to the crater's highest point. Orbassano's photographs are the first taken from the island's surface.
"This was a great location. It's not every day a new island appears in the middle of the ocean," he added.
Orbassano suggested that the island could become a tourist attraction, though scientists have issued warnings about approaching the island. Since it is newly formed, the ground is likely unstable. It's also unclear if the volcanic activity has ceased; another eruption could occur at any time.
"It will be very loose and unconsolidated material," said Matt Watson, a reader in natural hazards at the University of Bristol, told the BBC. "It's formed by fragmentation of magma, so it's basically small pieces of rock on top of each other that have formed an island. That's also going to make it more vulnerable to the waves. It's going to be battered by some of the waves and currents, particularly in Tonga."
In other words, the island could look very different in just a few months. Other newly formed volcanic islands have been known to be reclaimed entirely by the ocean in the past. So if you're anxious to become one of this island's first tourists, best to hurry. You could also be one of its last.
Take a look at these stunning before and after photos of the new island taken via satellite:
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