Three men scale peak of new one-mile island off Tonga which is believed to have formed after a volcano exploded underwater and then expanded
By Jonathan Pearlman, Sydney
The first photographs have emerged of a newly formed volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean after three men climbed to the peak of the land mass off the coast of Tonga.
|The pre-eruption satellite view before the island on the left became fused with the volcanic crater created by Hunga Tonga (Pleiades © CNES 2015)|
|The post-eruption satellite view after the island on the left became joined to the crater which created a larger land mass (Pleiades © CNES 2015)|
|The new volcanic island (centre) forms a trio with the older Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai volcanic islets, Tonga (All pictures taken by GP Orbassano)|
The three locals from Tonga visited the island on Saturday, landing on a black beach and climbing to the rim of the crater.
They said the surface was still hot and the green lake in the crater smelt strongly of sulphur.
"It was a perfect day, with fantastic views – bright blue sky and the sea was the same colour as the sky," GP Orbassano, one of the locals, told Tonga's Matangi Online.
The one-mile long cone-shaped island began forming last month, about forty miles from the nation's capital, and is now safe to walk on.
Experts believe a volcano exploded underwater and then expanded until an island formed. The island is expected to erode back into the ocean in a matter of months. It will not be named yet until officials know how long it will be around for.
Mr Orbassano said he believed the island was high enough for it to remain for some time – and potentially attract tourists.
|Gianpiero Orbassano and Branko Sugar on top of the crater rim|
"There are thousands of seabirds – all kinds, laying eggs on the island," he said.
Tonga's lands and natural resources ministry said last month the island was half a mile wide and just under a mile long. It is believed to be about 820 feet high.
|(All pictures taken by GP Orbassano)|
Mr Orbassano, 63, an Italian who moved to Tonga more than 20 years ago, previously had a career in photography and took a series of photos of the new island.