Human feet recently trod upon a brand-new piece of the Earth for the first time, as photographer Gianpiero Orbassano landed on the shores of a newly formed volcanic island off the coast of Tonga in the South Pacific. The as-yet unnamed island was formed earlier this year when the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted underwater and overtook a nearby island to form a new mass of volcanic land.
No one had set foot on the new island until recently, when Tongan hotel owner Gianpiero Orbassano and his son set out to explore the area and determine its potential for tourism. They set out for the island, which is located about 40 miles from the main island of Tongatapu, despite the fact that scientists have issued warnings that it could still be dangerous and geologically unstable.
According to ABC Science, Orbanasso and his son arrived on one of the island’s three beaches and climbed to the 820 feet, and captured some striking images of the island’s terrain, which is approximately one square mile. “We had a beautiful view of the volcano, which inside is now full of green emerald water, smelling of sulphur and other chemicals,” Orbanasso said, according to ABC Science. “The view was fantastic.”
Orbanasso, a former professional photographer who moved to Tonga 20 years ago after leaving his profession, said he couldn’t resist photographing the new piece of land. “This was a great location. It’s not every day a new island appears in the middle of the ocean,” he said. “It was absolutely amazing.” He added that although the island offers plenty of tourism potential, it’s currently comprised of fragile soil that is still hot to the touch in some cases. It’s also home to many sulphuric lakes.
At the same time, the BBC reports that some scientists are saying the island is still too unstable and dangerous for people to visit, and geologists are questioning whether it might continue erupting. The island will remain unnamed until it has been determined that it will stick around for a long time—many scientists believe that the island is unstable and may erode into the sea in the near future. If that happens, these photographs will be the sole evidence of the little island’s fleeting existence.
Images © Gianpiero Orbassano