New volcanic island teems with birds, other wildlife

This 11 December 2017 NASA video says about itself:

In late December 2014 into early 2015, a submarine volcano in the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga erupted, sending a violent stream of steam, ash and rock into the air.

When the ash finally settled in January 2015, a newborn island with a 400-foot summit nestled between two older islands – visible to satellites in space. The newly formed Tongan island, unofficially known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai after its neighbors, was initially projected to last a few months. Now it has a 6- to 30-year lease on life, according to a new NASA study.

This 5 February 2019 video says about itself:

The miracle outcrop known as Hunga Tonga has only existed for four years, yet is populated by hundreds of seabirds and flowering plants whose seeds were dropped there in bird droppings.

This 21 November 2018 video is about a visit to Hunga Tonga.

Translated from Dutch NOS eadio today:

With huge explosions and an ash rain that lasted for days, the island of Hunga Tonga was born in the beginning of 2015. The desert island in the Pacific Ocean is as big (or small) as Monaco and is a paradise for scientists and ecologists. It is already teeming with life.

“We were all like giddy school children”, NASA researcher Dan Slayback writes about his visit to Hunga Tonga. The excitement among researchers was great when it became clear that the very young island was home to [sooty] terns, barn owls and pink flowers in bloom.

“It started with the birds”, says ecologist Wieger Wamelink in the NOS radio program With the Eye on Tomorrow. For migratory birds, Hunga Tonga is a safe resting place without natural enemies. “They have been sitting there wonderfully. In the shit they leave behind, there are seeds and these have germinated, that’s where the plants come from.”

The ash rain has created a gray landscape with many trenches. A large inland lake betrays the location of the volcano crater. There is also a type of beach that consists of a clay-like substance.

The origin of life on the island is extra interesting matter for Wamelink. He is also ‘space gardener’ and deals with the possible growth of plants on Mars and on the moon.

“On Mars, you can see structures that resemble this island, and on Mars it is pretty sure that there used to be water, the soil is the same as on Hunga Tonga and we use that to see if plants can grow there.”

On Mars, there is no known life, and that was also not the case at Hunga Tonga. “That’s interesting: how are things? Which plants and animals and which ones not? And how fast is that?” Because the island remained undisturbed and virgin, scientists can fairly accurately measure how fast animal and plant species move in.

Hunga Tonga is located near the Polynesian Tonga archipelago, several thousand kilometers off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand.

This testing ground for Mars on Earth will not survive for long. Scientists expect Hunga Tonga to be swallowed by the waves within thirty years.


Humpback whales, video

This video says about itself:

This video was captured in Tonga with the help of Whale Watch Vava’u and Endangered Encounters, two excellent whale watch operations in Vava’u Tonga. The images were captured with a RED Epic and a Tokina 10-17mm lens in 5K resolution.

Michael Graham Richard writes about this video:

January 2, 2014

Watch it in full screen mode!

Here’s another great video by Howard Hall, a natural history filmmaker specializing in marine wildlife and marine environmental films, who also made Ocean Requiem, a reader-favorite on this site. Hall really got up close and personal with a pod of playful whales, some of them apparently curious about the strange creature swimming around them. The title of this short film is Leviathan

I find it very touching to see mama whale cuddling her calf.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Guam undersea active volcano wildlife

This is a video of an undersea eruption near Tonga.

From World Science:

Expedition to bursting, undersea volcano yields marvels

May 5, 2009

Courtesy National Science Foundation and World Science staff

Sci­en­tists who have just re­turned from an ex­pe­di­tion to an erupt­ing un­der­sea vol­ca­no near the Is­land of Guam re­port that the vol­ca­no seems to be con­tin­u­ously ac­tive, has grown con­sid­erably in the past three years, and its ac­ti­vity sup­ports a un­ique bi­o­log­i­cal com­mun­ity thriv­ing de­spite the erup­tions.

An in­terna­t­ional sci­ence team on the ex­pe­di­tion, funded by the Na­tional Sci­ence Founda­t­ion, cap­tured dra­mat­ic new in­forma­t­ion about the erup­tive ac­ti­vity of NW Rota-1.

This video is called Submarine Ring of Fire 2006: NW Rota1 Brimstone Pit Erupting.

“This re­search al­lows us, for the first time, to study un­der­sea vol­ca­noes in de­tail and close up,” said Barba­ra Ran­som, pro­gram di­rec­tor in the Na­tional Sci­ence Founda­t­ion’s Di­vi­sion of Ocean Sci­ences, which funded the re­search. “NW Rota-1 re­mains the only place on Earth where a deep sub­ma­rine volca­no has ev­er been di­rectly ob­served while erupt­ing.” …

An­i­mals in this un­usu­al ec­o­sys­tem in­clude shrimp, crab, limpets and bar­na­cles, some of which are new spe­cies. “They’re spe­cially adapted to their en­vi­ron­ment,” said Chad­wick, “and are thriv­ing in harsh chem­i­cal con­di­tions that would be tox­ic to nor­mal ma­rine life. Life here is ac­tu­ally nour­ished by the erupt­ing vol­ca­no.”

Ve­re­na Tun­ni­cliffe, a bi­olo­g­ist from the Uni­ver­s­ity of Vic­to­ria, Can­ada, said that most of the an­i­mals are de­pend­ent on dif­fuse hot-wa­ter ven­t­ing that pro­vides bas­ic food in the form of bac­te­ri­al fil­a­ments coat­ing the rocks. “It ap­pears that since 2006 the dif­fuse ven­t­ing has spread and, with it, the ven­t an­i­mals,” Tun­ni­cliffe said. There are pro­fuse popula­t­ions of shrimp on the vol­ca­no, with two spe­cies able to cope with the vol­can­ic con­di­tions, she added.

“The ‘Loi­hi’ shrimp has adapted to graz­ing the bac­te­ri­al fil­a­ments with ti­ny claws like gar­den shears,” said Tun­ni­cliffe. “The sec­ond shrimp is a new spe­cies—they al­so graze as ju­ve­niles, but as they grow to adult stage, their front claws en­large and they be­come preda­tors.” The Loihi shrimp was pre­vi­ously known only from a small ac­tive vol­ca­no near Ha­waii, far away. It sur­vives on the fast-growing bac­te­ria and tries to avoid the haz­ards of the vol­can­ic erup­tions. Clouds of these shrimp were seen flee­ing vol­can­ic bursts, re­search­ers said.

The oth­er spe­cies at­tacks the Loihi shrimp and preys on ma­rine life that wan­ders too close to the vol­can­ic plumes and dies. “We saw dy­ing fish, squid, etc., rain­ing down on­to the sea­mount, where they were jumped on by the vol­ca­no shrim­p,” Tun­ni­cliffe said.

NW Rota-1 pro­vides a one-of-a-kind nat­u­ral lab­o­r­a­to­ry for the in­ves­ti­ga­t­ion of un­der­sea vol­can­ic ac­ti­vity and its rela­t­ion to chem­i­cal-based ec­o­sys­tems at un­der­wa­ter ven­ts, where some bi­ologists think life on Earth orig­i­nat­ed.

“It is un­usu­al for a vol­ca­no to be con­tin­u­ously ac­tive, even on land,” Chad­wick point­ed out.

“This pre­s­ents us with a fan­tas­tic op­por­tun­ity to learn about pro­cesses we’ve nev­er been able to di­rectly ob­serve be­fore,” he said. “When vol­ca­noes erupt in shal­low wa­ter they can be ex­tremely haz­ard­ous, cre­at­ing huge ex­plo­sions and even tsunamis. But he­re, we can safely ob­serve an eruption in the deep ocean and learn valua­ble lessons about how lot la­va and seawa­ter in­ter­ac­t.” …

Ocean acidifica­t­ion is a se­ri­ous con­cern be­cause of human-induced car­bon di­ox­ide ac­cu­mu­lat­ing in the atmo­sphere. “Subma­rine vol­ca­noes are places where we can study how an­i­mals have adapted to very acid­ic con­di­tions,” Chad­wick said.

Blog of this expedition: here.

Unique and new species thriving around erupting undersea volcano: here.

An observation ward for the long-term observation of a mud volcano in the Norwegian deep sea has been set up by, among others, three research institutes from the German federal state Bremen: here.

Supervolcano may be brewing beneath Mount St Helens: here.

The Remarkable Life of William Beebe: Explorer and Naturalist: here.