How Old Is the Newest Island in the World?

old-newest-island-world Credit: By Taro Taylor edit by Richard Bartz/CC-BY 2.0

New islands still form in the ocean thanks to volcanic eruptions and other natural phenomena. In December 2014, the Hunga Tonga volcano erupted for five weeks and created a brand new island. The Hunga Tonga volcano is off the coast of Tonga, an island country east of Australia.

The new island, yet unnamed, is nearly a mile long and a half mile wide. As of March 2015, some Tongans have already begun proposing names, such as their former president Akhilisi Pohiva or Valerie Adams, a New Zealand shotput champion whose mother was Tongan. Still, Tongan officials won’t begin naming the island until it’s deemed safe.

Experts have called it highly unstable since it is made of magma rocks stacked on top of one another. Strong waves or weather could force it to collapse into the water. Not to mention, the volcanic eruption may not be over. That hasn’t stopped locals from already climbing the island’s 820-foot peak to take photos and enjoy the new landmass.

Phenomena like this are fairly common, and the islands are classified as oceanic or volcanic islands. Volcanoes erupt below the surface of the water, sending molten magma to the surface, which congeals and cools into sold land. Surtsey, south of Iceland, is an example of a volcanic island that has remained standing and now provides a home to hundreds of species of wildlife.