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OUT OF MIND » SOLAR & PLANETARY ALERTS & INFO » SPACE & ATMOSPHERIC CHANGES » 'Weirdest thing' floats in South Pacific By Todd Sperry, CNN

'Weirdest thing' floats in South Pacific By Todd Sperry, CNN

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PurpleSkyz

PurpleSkyz
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'Weirdest thing' floats in South Pacific
By Todd Sperry, CNN
updated 11:31 AM EDT, Sat August 11, 2012
Officials reported the floating rock shelf to be 250 nautical miles long by 30 nautical miles wide.
Officials reported the floating rock shelf to be 250 nautical miles long by 30 nautical miles wide.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS

Huge swath of pumice brings investigation
New Zealand Royal Navy vessel gathers samples
Scientists will try to determine volcanic source

(CNN) -- Pumice, the lightweight stone used to smooth skin, is usually found in beauty salons, but on Thursday sailors from New Zealand's Royal Navy found nearly 10,000 square miles of the lava rock bobbing on the surface of the South Pacific Ocean.

By comparison, the state of Rhode Island comprises approximately 1,200 square miles.

Described by one sailor who witnessed it as "the weirdest thing I've seen in 18 years at sea," the sea of white rock was initially spotted by air and then relayed to a ship for further investigation, according to a statement released by the New Zealand Royal Navy.

"The lookout reported a shadow on the ocean ahead of us, so I ordered the ship's spotlight to be trained on the area ... as far ahead as I could observe was a raft of pumice moving up and down with the swell," Lt. Tim Oscar said.

Pumice is typically a byproduct of lava that has cooled quickly after a volcanic eruption. The lava forms a rock so lightweight it floats on the water's surface.

"As we moved through the raft of pumice we used the spotlights to try and find the edge -- but it extended as far as we could see," Oscar said after the encounter.

Officials reported the floating rock shelf to be 250 nautical miles long by 30 nautical miles wide. A nautical mile is about 6,076 feet.

"The rock looked to be sitting two feet above the surface of the waves, and lit up a brilliant white color in the spotlight. It looked exactly like the edge of an ice shelf," Oscar said, according to the statement.

Sailors said taking their ship directly into the floating pumice to gather samples for research scientists didn't put the vessel at risk because the rock was so lightweight.

Volcanologist Helen Bostock told New Zealand Royal Navy officials the rock came from an underwater volcanic eruption, and now scientists will work to determine which volcano was responsible.

According to scientists who briefed Navy officials, a volcano named Monowai has been active in the region and the pumice could be a result of recent eruptions.

Preparing for tsunami debris, wherever it may make landfall

Can oxygen pump breathe life into ocean 'dead zone'?

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