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Huge Raft of Pumice Is Floating in the Ocean

It rose up from a volcano, and might end up helping the Great Barrier Reef
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 26, 2019 8:08 AM CDT
Updated Aug 31, 2019 2:30 PM CDT
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An aerial view of the pumice 'raft' floating in the ocean.   (NASA)

(Newser) – Australia's Great Barrier Reef is in trouble, but the ocean itself might be sending some slow-moving relief. An enormous floating island of pumice is headed toward Australia, and it could deliver new marine life to the endangered reef, reports CNN. The odd development is the result of an underwater volcano that erupted near Tonga in the Pacific Ocean in the first week of August, explains NASA. The volcano sent pumice rocks to the surface, some of them as small as a marble, others as big as a basketball, according to a first-person account from the crew of a catamaran that sailed through the resulting field. The rocks are pocked with holes, allowing them to float, and they're currently bunched up in a mass the size of Manhattan.

"At the moment there are more than a trillion pieces of pumice all floating together, but over time it will break up and disperse across the area," says Scott Bryan of Queensland University of Technology. Still, a bulk of the natural raft could reach Australia in perhaps seven months, bringing with it all kinds of microorganisms and larger marine life. "This is a potential mechanism for restocking the Great Barrier Reef," Bryan tells the BBC. The floating pumice field isn't unheard of, with marine experts saying the phenomenon is spotted every five years or so. This video shows what it's like to sail through it. (Another possibility of helping the reef involves the clouds.)

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