Tongan inspection team heads to undersea volcano

Mar 19, 2009
An undersea volcano erupts off the coast of Tonga, tossing clouds of smoke, steam and ash thousands of feet (meters) into the sky above the South Pacific ocean, Tuesday, March 17, 2009. The eruption was at sea about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the southwest coast of the main island of Tongatapu an area where up to 36 undersea volcanoes are clustered.(AP Photo/Trevor Gregory)

(AP) -- Scientists sailed Thursday to inspect an undersea volcano that has been erupting for days near Tonga - shooting smoke, steam and ash thousands of feet (meters) into the sky above the South Pacific ocean.

Authorities said Thursday the eruption does not pose any danger to islanders at this stage, and there have been no reports of fish or other animals being affected.

Spectacular columns are spewing out of the sea about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the southwest coast off the main island of Tongatapu - an area where up to 36 undersea volcanoes are clustered, geologists said.

Trade winds continued to blow gas and steam away from the island Thursday.

Tonga's police deputy commander Taniela Faletau said coastal villages close to the roiling ocean site were not yet at risk and that no warnings had been issued.

Police were waiting for a government team of officials and scientists to survey the area and report on their observations before taking any action.

Coastal residents said the steam and ash column first appeared on Monday morning, after a series of sharp earthquakes were felt in the capital, Nuku'alofa.

"This is not unusual for this area and we expect this to happen here at any time," said Keleti Mafi, Tonga's geological service head.

The was taking place near the low-lying twin of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai, and within sight of the capital, Nuku'alofa.

Large amounts of pumice thrown up by the would likely clog beaches on the southern coast of nearby Fiji islands within a short time, Mafi said.

Tonga, a 170-island archipelago about halfway between Australia and Tahiti, is part of the Pacific "ring of fire" - an arc of earthquake and stretching from Chile in South America through Alaska and down through Vanuatu to Tonga.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: The emergence of modern sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, 2.6 million years ago

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Discovered: world's largest tsunami debris

Sep 25, 2008

A line of massive boulders on the western shore of Tonga may be evidence of the most powerful volcano-triggered tsunami found to date. Up to 9 meters (30 feet) high and weighing up to 1.6 million kilograms ...

Kamchatka volcano blows its top

Jul 05, 2007

Klyuchevskoy (pronounced Kloo-shef-skoy), a stratovolcano located in the north central region of the Kamchatka Peninsula, is blasting ash up to 32,000 feet in the air, and has diverted air traffic headed toward ...

Recommended for you

Bridgmanite: World's most abundant mineral finally named

16 hours ago

A team of geologists in the U.S. has finally found an analyzable sample of the most abundant mineral in the world allowing them to give it a name: bridgmanite. In their paper published in the journal Science, the te ...

Volcano in south Japan erupts, disrupting flights

23 hours ago

A volcano in southern Japan is blasting out chunks of magma in the first such eruption in 22 years, causing flight cancellations and prompting warnings to stay away from its crater.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Doug_Huffman
5 / 5 (1) Mar 19, 2009
"shooting smoke, steam and ash thousands of feet (meters)" Uhh, no.

Does PhysOrg.asm have no editorial standard what so ever? I think it's payola.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.