On July 31, 2012, my passion for fossicking took me on an unexpected journey into a world of scientific wonder. My
partner and I were flying home after holidaying in Samoa and
saw a vast marbled grey slick on the surface of the ocean beneath the aircraft. I photographed it and we wondered if it
was an algal bloom, oil spill, or, recalling a conversation with a friend a week earlier, a pumice flotilla. My curiosity lead me to
do an internet search, where I came across research by volcanologist Scott Bryan from Brisbane. I emailed him the photograph and he alerted geologists in New Zealand, the
Pacific and the United States. This snowballed into a flurry of activity by experts to try and find the origin of the pumice.

The HMNZS Canterbury, which was in the area on a resupply mission, was redirected to the pumice raft.

 

Rebecca Priestley (scientist/writer) and Helen Bostock (marine geologist) were aboard Canterbury and they were able to collect samples from the floating sediment.

Several months later it was confirmed the pumice came from a July 19, 2012 eruption of 'Havre Seamount'. This is an underwater volcano on the Kermadec Ridge about 700 km nor-nor-east
of White Island.

The eruption produced material that was several hundred times the volume of the '95 Ruapehu eruption and a new 240 meter peak was added to Havre, roughly the size of Rangitoto!

 

An extensive article about this volcanic event was written
by Rebecca Priestley and published in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of New Zealand Geographic magazine. Click here
to read more.

You can also view Rebecca's science blog here
and download the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, eruption report here.

   
 

But serendipity hadn't finished with me yet. On January 31, 2013, while walking on Opoutere Beach (Coromandel), I stumbled upon barnacle and green algae covered pieces of pumice, washing up along the shoreline. The barnacles were unusual so I was back into discovery
mode. NIWA requested some samples and they determined it was the same pumice that was found floating on the ocean 1000 km's north of New Zealand, exactly 6 months.

Since then there have been regular deposits on northern NZ beaches, and large quantities have also made landfall in Australia. An article about my findings can be found on Stuff here.

It has been a hugely inspiring and educational experience for me. I am now using this beautiful pumice to make a range of beads for some tribal-style jewellery.