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'Weird' Floating Volcanic Debris Covers Parts of South Pacific August 17, 2012
Volcanic punice floating on South Pacific
Golf-ball-size chunnks of punice were first spotted by a New Zealand air force plane about 650 miles northwest of Auckland.
An expansive “raft” of light volcanic rocks the size of a small country has been found floating on the ocean surface off New Zealand, where one navy officer described it as the “weirdest thing” he had ever seen at sea.

Geologists say the 26,000-square-mile blanket of pumice was probably formed when lava from an ocean floor volcano known as Monowai came in contact with seawater.

The seamount is located well northeast of New Zealand and about 225 miles southwest of Tonga.

Since the pumice was less dense than the water, it quickly rose to the surface and was eventually discovered by a naval aircraft about 650 miles northwest of Auckland, where it had drifted.

“The rock looked to be sitting 2 feet above the surface of the waves, and lit up a brilliant white color in the spotlight," said NZ Navy Lt. Tim Oscar.

“It looked exactly like the edge of an ice shelf.“ Oscar added that the layer of pumice is far too light to pose a significant threat to maritime navigation even though it is 250 nautical miles long and 30 nautical miles wide.

Photo: Tim Oscar - NZ Navy