The water was an odd color which appeared to contain some sort of floating debris. They sailed toward it to get a better look. Upon closer inspection, the floating debris looked like a sandbar in the middle of the ocean and seemed to stretch for miles.
The crew eventually realized that what they were seeing was pumice stone floating on top of the water. Pumice is a gas-filled igneous rock that forms during volcanic eruptions. It is able to float on top of the water due to its porous form.
The crew attempted to sail the Maiken through the pumice stone, but had little luck. The pumice was just too dense and so they sailed away from it, feeling that something just wasn’t right. They wondered what on earth could’ve caused this vast amount of pumice to appear.
The crew learned that this underwater volcano was part of a larger underwater seamount and that this little guy was one mile in diameter, had four peaks and would sporadically burst with steam, lava and ash from its central crater.
Once the Maiken crew had posted about their adventure online, the scientific community went nuts. Sightings of newborn islands and underwater volcano eruptions are incredibly rare, as they normally occur in the deep sea or in other very remote areas at sea.
Unfortunately, most new islands only end up lasting a few months, and this little island was of no exception.
“Ultimately it’s a battle between the frequency and volume of eruptions and the wave action taking it back down to sea level,” says Volcanologist Scott Bryan of London’s Kingston University. When Bryan arrived at the scene a few months later, all that was left was the smell of sulfur.