A team of international researchers managed to land on what is one of the newest islands of the world. Upon arrival, the team was surprised to discover that the volcanic island, which rose to the surface near Tonga almost three years ago, features a layer of thick mud that covers the entire island. A variety of plants and birds are also present on the island despite the fact that it’s still quite young.
The island is one in a group of three that have managed to emerge from the sea in in the last 150 years and didn’t crumble in just a few months like others did before. NASA researchers surveyed the island with the help of satellites but the on-site study showed that sometimes satellites aren’t too reliable.
During the survey the researchers spotted a beach that looked like a good landing zone. When they approached the island they discovered that the beach was covered in gravel that made walking a chore. Birds that came to the island brought seeds that are already giving birth to sprawling vegetation. Several nests were also spotted.
The presence of the thick layer of mud is fascinating and puzzling at the same time since the researchers are unable to explain how the mud formed. At this point they now it’s not ash but the exact nature remain elusive. The mud was seen in the satellite images but it sports some interesting features. Its color is quite light and it makes it look like clay at first sight. When the researches touched the mud they discovered that it is very sticky. Samples of mud and other rocks have been collected for a more detailed analysis.
A military-grade GPS unit and aerial drone were used in order to map the island and its geographical features. The team will be able to generate a high-resolution 3D map and another visit is already planned for 2020 in order to study the changes that may occur.