Pumice Raft comes Ashore

Walking in our beach at sunset we discovered fist sized pieces of pumice washed ashore. Each little pumice stone had passengers, colourful barnacles which were obviously disappointed to be out of the water.

tiny pumice stone with barnacles

tiny pumice stone with barnacles

We wondered where the pumice had come from, and soon discovered it was probably part of a huge pumice raft found floating in the South Pacific late last year. Pumice is volcanic rock, in which bubbles are trapped by simultaneous heating and cooling. In August 2012 a great mass 300 miles (482 kilometers) in length and more than 30 miles (48 km) wide was seen floating off New Zealand.

see the porous pumice here

see the porous pumice here

After the initial sighting by the Royal New Zealand Airforce, scientists have discovered the source of the eruption. NASA satellite images and other sleuthing science have pinpointed an erupting undersea volcano called the Havre Seamount as the culprit.

each small piece had passengers

each small piece had passengers

The size of the barnacles fits with this pumice having been in the sea about 8 months. Rather sad for those little goose barnacles to lose their floating homes … I tossed some back into the water, but the next wave may bring them in again. The lucky ones will drift in the east coast current for longer, moving up and down the coastline. In the photo below you can see one barnacle has its feathery feeding legs or cirri extended.

barnacles looking sad

barnacles looking sad

It brought to mind our life experience, spinning in space on the planet Earth at the edge of a vast universe, one of many such universes. We are drifting too, not yet as precariously as the barnacles. What a miracle it seems that life has flourished here, plentiful, creative, endlessly amazing. How extraordinary that every single atom in our bodies was forged in distant and long-dead stars, just like every atom in the pumice and the barnacles. What a miracle that we can be aware of that, of living, of life, of being. As Mary Oliver says:  “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

the largest piece found on our beach, about the size of two fists

the largest piece found on our beach, about the size of two fists, catching the last sunrays …

27 thoughts on “Pumice Raft comes Ashore

  1. I’ve seen these a few times and wondered what they were. How interesting that your research came up with the provenance of the pieces you found. I will never look at them the same, both from a scientific point of view and also from a life view. I like to spend some of my “wild and precious life” wandering the beach 🙂

  2. I’m pleased you found time to show us the barnacles 🙂 I wonder what makes pumice attractive to them. I had to google because I couldn’t get my head around a pumice raft – nature is utterly amazing!
    I hope you’re keeping a little to use, in Cappadochia they were selling it right where it was found. A fascinating post my dear.

    • walking on the beach, that rich interface between land and sea, we often find puzzles, but this one had a wonderful story easily uncovered thanks to the internet … for which we are grateful 🙂

    • sure thing margie, just wait until those little barnacles have gone …. actually i noticed a few ‘clean’ peices this morning, i think the birds are eating them …

  3. Great post! And how cool that you figured out where it came from. It does make you wonder about life and how precarious it can be. I hope the little travelers stay safe in the water.

  4. It’s so lovely to see that a barnacle-clad piece of pumice caused you to consider our life experience right here-right now in a vast an expanding universe. Close contact with the natural world is always such a teacher!

  5. What an interesting post, Christine. It just goes to show that we should never just look at something like that, and pass on by. There’s usually a story to be unearthed if one looks for it. Thanks for sharing your discoveries. 🙂

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