Contact | RSS | EN | DE | EL | ES | FR | IT | RU

Tonga Islands: new submarine volcanic eruption discovered near Fonualei Island

Sun, 18 Aug 2019, 19:29
19:29 PM | BY: T
Sample of pumice encountered while sailing near Vava'u island in Tonga (image: Sail Surf ROAM / facebook)
Sample of pumice encountered while sailing near Vava'u island in Tonga (image: Sail Surf ROAM / facebook)
Satellite image of the pumice raft on 15 Aug (image: MODIS/NASA, annotated by Culture Volcan)
Satellite image of the pumice raft on 15 Aug (image: MODIS/NASA, annotated by Culture Volcan)
A new eruption, likely submarine, has occurred (or is still in progress) during the past days west of Vava'u Island in the Tonga archipelago. Its origin volcano is still a bit unclear, but the eruption, evidenced by fresh pumice rafts and steam plumes is most likely from a submarine volcano near or a vent of the small Fonualei volcano.
On 7 Aug, an observer sent us the following report:
"At around 10:40am on Wednesday 7 August, we noticed large clouds of smoke on the horizon at the location of Fonualei volcano. The plume continued to get larger over the next few hours. It seemed to pause and then erupt again."

The notice published on our website went largely unnoticed, but makes more sense now that a catamaran cruising in these waters came across a large raft of fresh pumice (very vesicular, frothy lava so light it can float), which was produced by the eruption.

The following is an excerpt from the detailed report they published on facebook:
"Catamaran ROAM sailing to Fiji encountered volcanic rocks (Pumice) completely covering the ocean surface at location: 18 55'S 175 21'W Time 0800hrs UTC (1900hrs local) 15/8/19. Rubble slick made up of rocks from marble to basketball size such that water was not visible. ...
Sailing on 255T we started seeing some floating rocks of random sizes (marbles to tennis balls) from position 18 46'S 174 55'W. ... At position 18 50'S 175 05'W we had faint but distinct smell of sulfur. ... At position 18 54'S 175 19'W we started to see and strike larger floating rocks. We took down all sail. Allowing the boat to continue on bare poles at 2-3kts on COG 255T. As we could no longer smell the sulfur we assumed we would be soon clear of the rubble so elected to continue at slowest speed.
At approx 0700hrs UTC (1900 local) 15/8/19 at position 18 55'S 175 21'W we entered a total rock rubble slick made up of pumice stones from marble to basketball size. The waves were knocked back to almost calm and the boat was slowed to 1kt. The rubble slick went as far as we could see in the moonlight and with our spotlight. We made a turn to starboard and managed to sail clear of the rubble slick under Staysail. We had entered it approx 200m and the edge could be made out in the partial moonlight back to the
NE. It was extensive in all other directions.

Recent satellite imagery from the area showed discolored sea water (by dissolved volcanic gasses in water) and steam (likely the same as reported above), suggesting that the eruption started around 6 or 7 Aug. At the same time, the pumice raft can be detected on satellite imagery, in several batches covering an area of about 400 km².
From the location of the pumice rafts, the eruption point is most likely an yet unnamed and unlisted submarine vent or volcano north of the volcanic island of Late, and south of the volcanic island Funualei.

Does the eruption still go on?
The most recent satellite images show no longer signs of new discolored water and pumice rafts, which could either mean that activity, if still going on, has decreased to fall below visual detection level, or has ended.

Previous news

Wed, 3 Oct 2001, 06:00

Fonualei volcano (Tonga Islands) - Smithsonian / USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report for 3 October-9 October 2001 (New Activity / Unrest)

The Laboratoire de Géophysique reported that explosive volcanic activity may have occurred at Fonualei volcano during late September. On 27, 28, and 30 September numerous short T waves were received by the French Polynesian Seismic Network. The preliminary location of the seismicity was determined to be near the Tonga archipelago at 18.18°S (well constrained) and 174°W (not as well constrained). ... Read all
Fonualei volcano
Stratovolcano 180 m / 591 ft
Tonga, Tonga Islands, -18.02°S / -174.33°W
Current status: normal or dormant (1 out of 5) Fonualei volcano eruptions:
Typical eruption style
Try our free app!
Volcanoes & Earthquakes - new app for Android
Android | iOS version

More on VolcanoDiscovery

Support us - Help us upgrade our services!

We truly love working to bring you the latest volcano and earthquake data from around the world. Maintaining our website and our free apps does require, however, considerable time and resources.
We need financing to increase hard- and software capacity as well as support our editor team. We're aiming to achieve uninterrupted service wherever an earthquake or volcano eruption unfolds, and your donations can make it happen! Every donation will be highly appreciated. If you find the information useful and would like to support our team in integrating further features, write great content, and in upgrading our soft- and hardware, please make a donation (PayPal or Online credit card payment).

Planned features:
  • Improved multilanguage support
  • Tsunami alerts
  • Faster responsiveness
Thanks to your past donations, these features have been added recently:
  • Design upgrade
  • Detailed quake stats
  • Additional seismic data sources
Download and Upgrade the Volcanoes & Earthquakes app to get one of the fastest seismic and volcano alerts online:
Android | IOS
Thank you!
Sources: VolcanoDiscovery / VolcanoAdventures and other sources as noted.
Use of material: Most text and images on our websites are owned by us. Re-use is generally not permitted without authorization. Contact us for licensing rights.
Volcanoes & Earthquakes
VolcanoDiscovery Home
Volcanoes | Earthquakes | Photos | Volcano News | App
Adventure & Study Travel
Tours to Volcanoes and Volcanic Areas: walking tours, photo tours, study tours
Tours & Dates | FAQ | About us
Get our newsletter!
Company info
Contact | Legal info | Terms & conditions
Follow us
Follow us on facebook Follow us on Instagram Follow us on Twitter Visit our Youtube channel
EN | DE | EL | ES | FR | IT | RU
VolcanoDiscovery GmbH, Germany, Reg. nr.: HRB 103744, EU Tax Id: DE 310 395 322 owned and created by
Dr. Tom Pfeiffer, volcanologist, volcano photographer, tour organizer member of
Volcanological Society
Ecotourism Greece
Insured by R+V
VolcanoDiscovery © 2004- All Rights Reserved | Privacy - cookie settings