Japan, a country known for its seismic activity and volcanic landscapes, has added another jewel to its collection of islands.
A new landmass has emerged as a result of a series of undersea volcanic eruptions, located approximately 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) to the south of Tokyo, near Iwoto Island, part of the Ogasawara Island chain in the western Pacific. This extraordinary natural event that began in October has drawn attention from experts and the public alike.
Fukashi Maeno, an associate professor at Tokyo University’s earthquake research institute, confirmed that the volcanic eruptions near Iwoto gave birth to a new landmass measuring about 100 meters in diameter.
These eruptions were categorized as phreatomagmatic, which are explosive eruptions caused by the interaction between magma and water. During the eruptions, plumes of smoke and ash, some reaching over 50 meters in height, were observed rising into the sky at regular intervals.
Large rocks were seen hurtling through the air, and bands of brown pumice stones were spotted floating in the sea, which had undergone a significant color change due to volcanic activity.
Iwoto, the site of one of the most intense battles in the Pacific War and one of Japan’s 111 active volcanoes is situated near a recently formed island due to a 2021 eruption.
Formerly named Iwo Jima, it was officially renamed by Japanese authorities in 2007. This region has a history of significant volcanic activity, with the Japanese Meteorological Agency noting similar eruptions in the vicinity between July and December of the previous year, as well as in June of the current year. The agency indicated that the recent eruptions are believed to have commenced on October 21.
Maeno emphasized that the recent formation of an island serves as concrete evidence of magmatic activity’s resurgence in the area. The newfound island may continue to grow in size and shape if the eruptions persist, but it also faces the possibility of eventually vanishing beneath the waves, as historical records show that islands formed in a similar manner in 1904, 1914, and 1986 all eventually eroded and disappeared.
Islands primarily composed of ash and rock fragments might struggle to withstand the constant assault of ocean waves. However, continuous volcanic activity could lead to the development of lava flows, eventually creating a more robust and enduring surface.
A notable example is from 2013 when weeks of volcanic activity in the same region formed an island that eventually merged with an existing one, bearing a striking resemblance to the famous cartoon character Snoopy.
What’s also fascinating is that earlier this year, geographers, using advanced digital mapping technology, unveiled a surprising revelation about Japan’s geography.
Previously believed to consist of four main islands and approximately 6,000 smaller, mostly uninhabited islands, Japan was found to have a significantly higher number of islands than previously thought.
The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan identified a total of 14,125 islands, adding an astounding 7,273 to the previously recognized count.