A 'raft' of volcanic rock the size of Manhattan is floating toward Australia
A massive layer of volcanic rock carrying multitudes of sea organisms could soon aid in the recovery of the Great Barrier Reef, which has been "bleached" and permanently damaged by climate change.
The "raft" was captured by NASA Earth Observatory days after an underwater volcano 130 feet down may have erupted near the island of Tonga. The resulting raft of pumice rock is the size of Manhattan and is floating toward Australia, NASA said.
Days later, an Australian couple sailing to Vanatu on a catamaran encountered the raft.
The sheer volume of the mass, made up of "pumice stones from marble to basketball size," blocked their ship.
"In the slick our steering became temporarily/partially fouled by rocks jamming between rudders and hull," they wrote in a dispatch posted to Facebook in August.
The "masses of lava" created by the eruption stay on the surface because "such pumice rocks are full of holes and cavities, and they easily float," NASA said.
"These chunks of pumice end up making excellent, drifting homes for sea organisms, helping them spread," said volcanologist Erik Klemetti in Discover.
Once the raft drifts into Australian waters, Queensland University of Technology geologist Scott Bryan tells the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that it will be covered in an array of sea organisms. Its arrival "will bring new healthy corals and other reef dwellers to the Great Barrier Reef,” Bryan told the Guardian.
That, in effect, will help restore the Great Barrier Reef – which is the world's largest coral reef and the planet's biggest structure made by living organisms.
The reef has been compromised repeatedly by global warming, with die-offs happening at a rate that may cause it to not recover quickly enough.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Australia's Great Barrier Reef could be saved by giant layer of pumice