Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pumice 'Raft' Floating in the Pacific Ocean Could Help Heal Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pumice 'Raft' Floating in the Pacific Ocean Could Help Heal Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Article excerpt

A "raft" of floating pumice rock the size of Manhattan is drifting toward Australia, bringing along with it new marine life that could help with the recovery of the Great Barrier Reef's corals, half of which have been killed in recent years as a result of climate change.

Experts say that if the pumice makes it to the Great Barrier Reef, it could help replenish some of the lost marine life. The raft is believed to be home to organisms like crabs and corals.

The massive floating sheet of volcanic rock was first spotted by sailors Aug. 9, days after an underwater volcano is believed to have erupted near the Pacific island of Tonga, according to NASA Earth Observatory.

Days later, Australian sailors heading toward Vanuatu on the ROAM catamaran said they encountered volcanic rocks "made up of pumice stones from marble to basketball size such that water was not visible."

ROAM crew Michael and Larissa Hoult told CNN that they had been at sea for 10 days before coming into contact with the gray floating matter one evening.

"It was quite eerie, actually," Ms. Hoult said. "The whole ocean was matte - we couldn't see the water reflection of the moon."

"The rocks were kind of closing in around us, so we couldn't see our trail or our wake at all. We could just see the edge where it went back to regular water - shiny water - at night," Mr. Hoult added.

The pumice, which is filled with holes and cavities, floats like an iceberg does, with about 90% underwater and 10% above water, the pair explained.

That pumice is expected to drift with the current down to the Australian coast over the next seven to 10 months, they said, where scientist believe could have a positive affect on the microorganisms there.

Scott Bryan, a professor at Queensland University of Technology specializing in geology and geochemistry, said the current pumice raft is moving about 6 to 19 miles per day. …

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