Volcano creates new island in the Red Sea

A month ago, one of these islands didn't exist.

On December 13, fishermen in the Red Sea reported volcanic eruptions shooting lava into the air. Just ten days later, the new island was visible. Volcanic island formation is one of those natural phenomena that most of us have known about since grade school. And yet, it never becomes not awesome. Smithsonian has a Q&A with volcanologists (still one of the most awesome jobs), that explains some of what's going on. Even if you already know the general basics, the specifics of this particular island are pretty neat.

The “new” volcano, of which you can see the very top, has probably been erupting episodically underwater for thousands of years. While its above-surface dimensions are roughly 1,739 feet east-to-west and 2,329 feet north-to-south we know the larger submerged shield it sits on is about 12.5 miles across—an edifice whose age is unknown, but the Red Sea may have begun spreading apart about 34 million years ago and the shield volcano could thus be tens of millions of years in the making.

... Keep in mind that this whole region has had many volcanic eruptions in the last five years. In 2007, for example, a sudden eruption on the nearby Island Jebel at Tair killed a number of soldiers stationed there. The process of plate tectonics seems to be going on a little faster, at a quickened rate in this area. Why? We don’t know. The general public needs to be reminded that volcanologists are often in the dark about these processes.


    1. Probably the same person who already claims the uninhabited, lifeless, tiny chunks of rock right next to it.

    2. What I wonder about is the fantastic new opportunity for scientists to study bio-geography.  Think of it.  A brand new sterile island that can now be observed for the arrival of animal life and how they accomplish it.  Completely fascinating.

    3. It appeared in Yemeni territorial waters, so they get first dibs, just as soon as it’s cool enough to plant a flag.

      This sort of things isn’t just an abstract political problem, in the 19th Century, Britain, France, Spain and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (no really) nearly went to war over the volcano Ferdinandea just south of Sicily. For most of the time Ferdinandea is completely submarine, but in 1831 it breached the surface and eventually rose some 60m above the ocean. So there was a race to plant flags.

      The British got in first and claimed it as Graham Island when only a few rocks had appeared and even planted their flag when the volcano was erupting! The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies followed and named it after King Ferdinand. That was followed by the French who named it Julia. Spain also put in a claim for the hell of it.

      The dispute went on for five months with all sides threatening war (and planning tourist resorts) before the ocean swept the loose cinders away. The volcano has been mostly quiet since then, but it is now recognised as part of Italy if it should bother to appear again.

      There’s probably a good steampunk adventure in all this.

      Obviously feeling left out, in 1986 the Americans bombed it thinking the volcano was a Libyan submarine.

      It’s not like new islands are uncommon. Right now, just off the coast of El Hierro in the Canaries there’s another volcanic eruption going on that might create a new island in the near future.

  1. More evidence that climate change is a hoax!  They keep telling us that islands are vanishing when clearly more are appearing!

    …am I trolling right?

  2. “What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. A time will come – but I must not and cannot think! Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye…”

  3.   What’s so cool about these archipelagos(?) is how they support our notions of larger plate tectonics.  It blew my mind when I learned that this is the relatively stable upthrust of the upper mantle scrambling at the lower side of a plate.  You can track the motion of the plate over the milennia by looking at past eruptions that show up as the older islands.  ++really cool igneous rocks.

  4. >the Red Sea may have begun spreading apart about 34 million years ago

    b-but…  Moses didn’t flee Egypt 34 million years ago!

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