Zalzala Koh: The 'Earthquake Island' Near Pakistan Has Vanished

The 'Earthquake Mountain' was a short-lived addition to the coast of Pakistan.
Chris Young

While nothing lasts forever, you might be forgiven for thinking that an island would typically last more than six years.

Zalzala Koh, an island that was formed off the coast of Pakistan in 2013 after a powerful 7.7 magnitude earthquake, it turns out, is an example of such a short-lived land formation.


The 'Earthquake Mountain'

Zalzala Koh was birthed in 2013, after Pakistan's devastating earthquake that killed 800 people and destroyed 21,000 homes.

Curiously, the destructive event also led to the new island being formed by volcanic forces that were in action during the quake.

Zalzala Koh: The 'Earthquake Island' Near Pakistan Has Vanished
April 17, 2013 Source: NASA/Earth Observing-1 Satellite

Once the earthquake subsided, Zalzala Koh was discovered off the coast of Pakistan, near the city of Gwadar. A mud volcano had pushed the soil up from the seabed.

“The island is really just a big pile of mud from the seafloor that got pushed up [by the seismic activity]" Bill Barnhart, a geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey told NASA Earth Observatory at the time.

Zalzala Koh: The 'Earthquake Island' Near Pakistan Has Vanished
September 26, 2013 Source: NASA/Earth Observing-1 Satellite

Swallowed by the sea

Now, new images from NASA show that Zalzala Koh has been submerged by the sea — though it is still somewhat visible beneath the waves.

In the recently revealed satellite images, the island's short lifespan has been clearly mapped out.

Zalzala Koh: The 'Earthquake Island' Near Pakistan Has Vanished
Source: NASA/Earth Observing-1 Satellite

The island, which was 20 meters high, 90 meters wide, and 40 meters long when first found, was never expected to last for long; scientists immediately predicted that the tides and waves would quickly erode the muddy formation.

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So long, but not goodbye?

However, this may not be the end of the muddy methane formation. As Science Alert reports, other islands, like Malan Island to the east, have emerged and vanished from the sea on more than one occasion. 

Due to seismic activity caused by the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates, there are various mud volcanoes in the region. Unfortunately, newly formed islands are usually an after-effect of devastating earthquakes — Malan island, for example, formed after a huge earthquake and tsunami in Balochistan in 1945.

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