New Island Appears off the Coast of Japan After Underwater Volcano Erupts

Some islands are not like the others.
Derya Ozdemir
The photo credit line may appear like thisJapan Coast Guard

Looking for some hot, brand-new real estate off the coast of Japan? You're in luck since a new island is up for grabs — but beware, it might burn your fingers.

The Japanese archipelago is a collection of over 6,800 islands that make up the country of Japan, and its most recent addition is a C-shaped landmass with a diameter of approximately 0.62 miles (1 km), as reported by the Japan Coast Guard.

The coast guard discovered this new island on Sunday after a volcano 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Iwo Jima, part of the Ogasawara Islands in the Pacific Ocean, began erupting on Friday.

The Japan Coast Guard stated last week that the region was experiencing explosive volcanic activity, including a plume of steam and gas rising from the ocean to altitudes of more than 15 kilometers. The crew discovered what appeared to be a big, floating volcanic rock deposit on the sea while conducting overhead inspections of the eruption.

As the eruption is expected to continue, the Meteorological Agency has issued warnings regarding smoke and huge ash deposits in neighboring waterways.

Volcanic islands: The cradle of life?

The island is actually the summit of a massive underwater volcano called Fukutoku-Okanoba, according to Forbes.

You can think of submarine volcanoes as the underwater versions of their land-based counterparts. When a submarine volcano erupts, lava can create new crust material, that when it rises above sea level, forms volcanic islands. It's not an uncommon occurrence, especially near Japan. New islands have been formed this way in Japan in 1904, 1914, and 1986, all of which are now submerged due to erosion.

An eruption in 2013, for example, created a new island that eventually combined with nearby Nishinoshima to form a mass that resembled Snoopy from Peanuts for a time.

This most recent island could be temporary or it could become a permanent feature if the volcano continues to erupt and it produces a robust shell. In that case, it could be added to Japan’s territory as the submarine volcano is located near South Iwo Jima, the southernmost islet in the island chain.

Surtsey Island in Iceland is another example of a recently formed volcanic island. In 1963, the volcanic island reached sea level, and it continued to grow through eruptions until 1967. Surtsey was designated as a nature reserve in 1965, and only scientists are permitted to visit the island today to allow natural ecological succession to take place without interference from the outside world. These newly formed volcanic islands are particularly significant because some scientists think they may have sprung up to foster life as "the cradle of life" when the Earth was entirely covered by water.


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