Pakistan’s New Island
Imagine you are just sitting having lunch one day and…Boom! An island magically appears before your eyes. You are quite sure it wasn’t there five minutes ago, but now your beautiful view of uninterrupted sea has been destroyed by a muddy rocky mess.
Unfortunately, its miraculous appearance isn’t quite a tale of biblical proportions. In fact, it is pretty common around this region. Islands have a habit of rising from the sea around Pakistan, to replace the ones that vanish.
The area is a hotspot for seismic activity. The island that just appeared was hissing, and when locals lit a lighter next to it, the air sprung to life with fire. The continental plates that meet underneath Pakistan shift about putting pressure in methane stores beneath the sediment. Eventually, after a build-up of pressure the gas explodes, propelling huge chunks of the seabed to the surface. This is the third island in fifteen years to emerge along 700 km of Makran Coastline. Seismic Island life is short lived however. The islands are often made of loose sediment, rocks and mud which are easily worn away by waves and weather and live for only a few months. There is also the chance that another great burst of seismic activity will dismantle the island. The same shock that caused it could cause the island to crumble and disintegrate back into the ocean.
The island off the coast of Gwadar is almost certainly a result of the earthquake that preceded it. Two days earlier, Pakistan recorded an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 on the Richter scale measuring at a depth of 20km. Although the earthquake did not affect the land mass closest to where the island appeared, clearly it had a greater impact underground and underwater, revealing that an earthquakes true force is not the effect it has on the surface. Kind of like an iceberg. Although the earthquake had devastating consequences, including a death toll of 328, the world is more focused on its creation of a new island.
Earthquakes traditionally alter landscapes dramatically, especially manmade ones which are usually flattened. But earthquakes in Pakistan do not just create islands off shore; they alter the land on the shoreline also. Mud Volcanoes are formed along the Coast by the same seismic activity, although they have a much longer lifespan than the islands. Some have been known for centuries. These mud volcanoes are thought to have been caused by gas looking for an escape route from the seabed, and travel from the seabed inland until it finds a crevice to escape. Dormant mud volcanoes become pillars of hardened mud, but the active ones are like acidic hot springs with a pool of bubbling mud. The largest in the region is Chandragup, and has become a religious Hindu sight for pilgrimage.
Keep an eye on this new island, because if you blink you are probably going to miss it and it is unlikely to be around again in your lifetime. The locals claim legends that the same island appeared around 60 years ago. Named Zalzala Koh, or Quake Hill, they believed it resting beneath the surface of the water and reappeared with the earthquake. It’s unlikely to be the same one, but when they rise, the islands do leave an imprint of themselves in the seabed. Maybe the Lost City of Atlantis was actually built on one of these islands that sprouted suddenly and was washed away back into the ocean…