New island off Japan keeps growing

A volcanic eruption 600 miles south of Tokyo has created a new island, a 14-acre mass along the western edge of the “Ring of Fire” in the South Pacific. And far from sinking back into the sea, this bundle of joy looks like its here to stay.

The island is named Niijima and sits off the coast of Nishino-shima, a small, uninhabited island in the “Ring of Fire” chain of volcanoes in the western Pacific. It first appeared in late November, when heavy black smoke, ash and rocks exploded from the seas and steam poured forth from the eruption.

New images released by NASA show that the island looks likely to stay, unlike past tiny bits of territory that have appeared and later disappeared, according to Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief government spokesman.

“This has happened before and in some cases the islands disappeared,” Yoshihide Suga said when asked if the government was planning on naming the new island.

“If it becomes a full-fledged island, we would be happy to have more territory.”

According to news reports, Niijima is still erupting and growing. Scientists from the Japan Meteorological Agency think the island is large enough to survive for at least several years, if not permanently, NASA said. By early December, the island had grown to 56,000 square meters (13.8 acres), about three times its initial size. It stands 20 to 25 meters above the sea level.

The new island sits about a third of a mile from Nishino-shima, another volcanic island that last erupted and expanded in 1973–74, NASA said.