One of the news stories that caught my attention the most – infact the one that has caught my attention the most in recent times – was the formation & sudden appearance of the small island after the massive earthquake that hit Pakistan on Tuesday. Experts say the island was formed by the massive movement of the earth during the 7.7-magnitude quake that hit Pakistan’s Baluchistan province killing at least 285 people. Alongside the carnage caused by the earthquake a small island of mud, stone and bubbling gas pushed forth from the seabed.
The island appeared off the coast of Gwadar, a port about 533km from Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi and 120km from Iran. The mass was about 18 metres high, 30 metres wide and 76 metres long, making it a little wider than a tennis court and slightly shorter than a football field. Such islands are not entirely unusual to scientists who study the earth and its sometimes violent movements. There are two ways such islands can be created. In the first scenario, the earth’s crust violently lifts up out of the water. In the second, the earthquake triggers the movement and release of gases locked in the earth resulting in a flow called a “mud volcano’’. Sudden islands like this can be swallowed back up by the seas, as has happened in Pakistan in the past. But there have been cases, such as following the Great Alaskan Earthquake almost 50 years ago, when new landforms like these can stay around.
In this case, local residents have been visiting the island and picking up rocks as souvenirs. But Pakistani authorities have been warning them to stay away as methane gas is leaking out of the new structure and can be set off by sparks from a cigarette. And rare as it is, this sudden island is not Pakistan’s first. Similar islands appeared off a different part of the coast of Pakistan after quakes in 1999 and 2010. Those islands were swallowed back into the sea during the monsoon season, a period of heavy rain and wind that sweeps Pakistan every summer.