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Japan's Nishinoshima Island Is Younger Than Princess Charlotte


© Condé Nast Traveler The island is 600 miles off the Japanese coast.

By Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler

The big appeal of geological immensity, to many travelers, is the ancientness it implies. It's impossible to stare down into the Grand Canyon, or up at the Himalayas, without thinking about the millions of years it took to create them. The peak of Mount Everest is peppered with seashell fossils because its limestone was formed underwater. The Matterhorn was formed so long ago that it was once part of Africa. But some parts of the Earth are young. Ridiculously young. Most of the Japanese island of Nishinoshima is so young that, if it were a person, it wouldn't be in kindergarten yet.
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Nishinoshima was tiny when it wasn't erupting.

For ten thousand years, Nishinoshima ("West Island") was a quiet, green dot in the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles off the Japanese coast. It was the northern ridge of an ancient caldera—the collapsed hollow of a massive volcano rising up 10,000 feet from the sea floor. But the exposed part of the cone was tiny: you could take a leisurely walk across the island in three minutes or so.
Your author and parts of Nishinoshima are the same age.

[post_ads]In the spring of 1973—almost exactly one year before I was born—Nishinoshima's dormant period ended, and a new island appeared just east of the old caldera. Smoke and black rock rose from the sea, and lava flows over the following year created a new cone that eventually stood 130 feet above the waves and joined the old island.
The island undergoes a shocking five-year growth spurt.

Things really started happening for Nishinoshima in 2013, when new eruptions released 7.9 million cubic meters of lava—enough to fill Tokyo Dome six times, the Japanese government reported—in just three months. The lava flow soon engulfed the old island, and eruptions have continued on and off for the last five years. Nishinoshima is now 750 acres in area—12 times larger than it was in 2013—meaning you can walk on a newborn landmass that's younger than Rick and Morty, the Ice Bucket Challenge, and Britain's Princess Charlotte.
Life, uh, finds a way—even on barren lava.

Except that you can't really walk there. UNESCO and the Japanese government are working to keep Nishinoshima as pristine as possible, and open only to researchers. The newborn island is an amazing opportunity for scientists to watch evolution in action, as new life colonizes a lifeless lava field. Seabirds like boobies, gannets, and the vulnerable crested tern have flocked to the new island for nesting, and their deposits of poop and feathers are beginning the process that will one day cover the island in soil where plants can grow. If the island ever settles down and stops growing, that is.

Explore the world's oddities every week with Ken Jennings, and check out his book Maphead for more geography trivia.


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Travel - U.S. Daily News: Japan's Nishinoshima Island Is Younger Than Princess Charlotte
Japan's Nishinoshima Island Is Younger Than Princess Charlotte
Travel - U.S. Daily News
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