Newly Discovered Pumice Raft Headed Towards Australia Could Help the Great Barrier Reef

The pumice stones are made of volcanic lava and are lighter than water, making them float.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of the most beautiful natural wonders and diverse ecosystems in the world. Considered one of the seven natural wonders, it is the largest coral reef system in the world and is the biggest living structure on the planet covering a massive 344,400 square kilometers. However, this prized World Heritage Area is currently dying.

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In a recent study, researchers identified that 89% of the Great Barrier Reef has declined due to mass bleaching brought on upon by climate change. This mass bleaching is directly impacting the ecosystems that rely on the coral, including humans. In all this bad news, researchers have recently discovered a bit of hope. 

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A giant mass of pumice stones, created from volcanic lava lighter than water, is currently floating toward Australia.

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Newly Discovered Pumice Raft Headed Towards Australia Could Help the Great Barrier Reef
Satellite image of the raft. Source: NASA

What makes this floating landmass so special?  Scientists believe that the landmass is carrying organisms that could help replenish the Great Barrier Reef. 

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Newly Discovered Pumice Raft Headed Towards Australia Could Help the Great Barrier Reef
The pumice raft, almost the size of Manhattan. Source: NASA

A floating life raft

This floating landmass did not just appear out of nowhere. Researchers at Queensland University of Technology and NASA believe that an underwater volcano near the nation of Tonga produced the floating raft.

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The raft comprises of multiple stones - some as big as basketballs spanning 58 square miles or about the size of the city of Washington D.C.

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Associate professor, Scott Bryan from the Queensland University of Technology believes that the raft will help play a role in bringing life to some parts of the coral reef. Expected to make land on the Australian coast in 7-12 months, the life raft "will be covered in a whole range of organisms of algae and barnacles and corals and crabs and snails and worms," said Bryan Australian Broadcasting Corp. 

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"Each piece of pumice is a rafting vehicle. It's a home and a vehicle for marine organisms to attach and hitch a ride across the deep ocean to get to Australia," Bryan reported to the Guardian.

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Interestingly, it was a couple who first noticed the massive floating raft while on a sailing a trip to Fiji. “We entered a total rock rubble slick made up of pumice stones from marble to basketball size,” posted the couple in their Facebook post about their adventure. 

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