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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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?”