Volcanic mountains

Boats warned of floating volcanic rocks in waters off eastern Taiwan

Taipei December 8 (CNA) The Coast Guard has warned vessels sailing in waters off eastern Taiwan to beware of floating volcanic rocks on the Japanese-held Ogasawara Islands following an underwater volcanic eruption in the chain of islands in the western Pacific Ocean in August.

The pumice stones were spotted floating along the coast of Hualien County from Shitiping to Qixingtan Beach, the largest of them being the size of a tennis ball, Coast Guard Officer Yang Shih-feng (楊仕逢) of the Coast Guard’s Eastern Branch. The administration announced Wednesday.

Yang said volcanic rocks float on water due to their porous nature, and while some are as big as a tennis ball, most of them are the size of pebbles and are easily sucked into rocks. ship engines, potentially causing significant damage.

There is no indication that volcanic rocks have affected the environment in Hualien, Yang said, but he urged locals to report sightings of floating pumice stones to local authorities and reminded boats sailing in the area to keep an eye out for them, Yang said.

Pumice is a type of volcanic rock, produced when lava with very high water and gas content is vented from a volcano and then cools and hardens resulting in a very light rocky material filled with tiny bubbles of gas.

According to Yang, government agencies began noticing in late November that volcanic rocks had drifted to 16 points in the coastal areas of Pingtung, Taitung, Green Island and Orchid Island.

They believe the pumice stones came from an underwater volcanic eruption in mid-August that occurred in the Ogasawaras, also known as the Bonin Islands, a chain of volcanic islands located about 2,000 kilometers east-northeast of Taipei.

(By Chang Chi and Elizabeth Hsu)

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