Great Barrier Reef: giant pumice ‘raft’ could help recovery from bleaching

26th August 2019

The pumice raft, estimated to be around 150 sq km, was created by an underwater volcano near Tonga.

A massive ‘raft’ of pumice spotted in the Pacific Ocean is expected to make its way towards Australia and could help replenish the Great Barrier Reef, which has suffered from bleaching in recent years.

The pumice raft is expected to help the Great Barrier Reef’s recovery as it functions as a kind of floating reef, acting as a temporary raft for billions of marine organisms such as barnacles, corals, crabs, snails and worms, which all tag along for the ride.

The raft, which is reportedly some 150 sq km in size, is believed to have been formed by an underwater volcano near Tonga. News of the massive pumice stretch was initially reported by an Australian couple, Michael Hoult and Larissa Brill, who were sailing a catamaran to Fiji on 16th August.

The couple reported to have experienced a slowing of the boat they were on, and shortly after they began to hear the pieces of stone scratch against their boat. Upon investigating, they reported to have observed a rock-rubble slick as far as the eye can see.

Pieces of rock within the raft range from the size of a marble to a basketball.

Scientists believe in the potential for the replenishment of the Great Barrier Reef based on what has been observed with past pumice rafts.

Experts say that pumice forms when frothy molten rock cools rapidly, forming a lightweight bubble-rich rock which is able to float. This particular raft reportedly comes from a recently discovered underwater volcano which has been determined to have erupted around 7th August based on observations from satellite imagery.

Experts also believe that the raft should reach the Australian coast in roughly seven months’ time, passing New Caledonia, Vanuatu and reefs in the eastern Coral Sea along the way, with corals expected to spawn on the raft itself.

The Great Barrier Reef is not one continuous reef, but made up of over 2900 reefs and 900 islands. It is the largest reef structure and marine park in the world.

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Great Barrier Reef: giant pumice ‘raft’ could help recovery from bleaching