7 Feb 2019

Tonga's newest island now supporting life

12:47 pm on 7 February 2019

One of the world's newest islands in Tonga is sprouting vegetation and supporting bird life just four years after erupting into existence from an undersea volcano.

The island was initially expected to erode and disappear within months.

The deputy secretary of Tonga's Ministry of Lands, Taaniela Kula, said Tongan geologists visited the island late last year with scientists from NASA.

"There are some speculation on the source of this vegetation - either from growing from the island or from the birds waste dumping on the sides.

"Because the island is full of a variety of birds, sea birds, and they nest in the area and they produce more birds around the crater and also they reside in the gullys of the volcano."

Taaniela Kula said a submission may be made to the King and Cabinet to formally name the island, which is now expected to exist for another 30 years.

The island is currently called Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai after two of its pre-existing neighbours.