Scientists sailed today to inspect an undersea volcano that has been erupting for days near Tonga—shooting smoke, steam, and ash thousands of feet into the sky above the South Pacific ocean. The eruption doesn't pose any danger to islanders at this stage, authorities say, and there have been no reports of fish or other animals being affected.
Spectacular columns are spewing out of the sea about 6 miles from the southwest coast off the main island of Tongatapu, an area where up to 36 undersea volcanoes are clustered. Police are waiting for the scientists' report and no warnings have been issued yet. Tonga, a 170-island archipelago about halfway between Australia and Tahiti, is part of the tumultuous Pacific "ring of fire," an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching from Chile to Alaska.