Skip to content

Spectacular Volcanic Eruptions in Tonga

The twin islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai have become one large pumice island. It should only take a few months for the ocean to wear it back down.

© Robert Stone

On Monday, a Tongan volcano that had been quiet since 1988 blew its stack. The twin islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai lie about six miles off the southwest coast of Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu, and cap a large seamount that is one of nearly 40 volcanoes that dot the area’s underwater landscape.

The submarine volcano has been shooting off spectacular plumes of smoke, ash and pumice all week, creating a spontaneous tourist attraction. Official warnings have fallen on deaf ears as more boats and planes head out with paying passengers eager to be eyewitnesses.

Tongan tourists are renting planes and boats by the hundreds to be able to witness an eruption firsthand.

© Steven Gates

The eruptions aren’t expected to cause any damage to surrounding islands, though enormous rafts of pumice will likely hamper the passage of many Puddle Jumpers. If they value their gelcoat, Puddle Jumpers would be wise to sail around any rafts they come across.

Yesterday a 7.9-magnitude earthquake that shook an area 180 miles away, and earned a tsunami warning that was cancelled two hours later, was unrelated to the eruption.

Leave a Comment

The Left Coast Lifter will soon be put to work on the new Bay Bridge.
Ericsson 3 (orange), Ericsson 4 (white), Puma (red), and © 2009 Volvo Ocean Race What was only a 50-mile lead yesterday has doubled as Ericsson 3 leads the pack toward Rio in the Volvo Ocean Race.