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March 19, 2009 (Use j/k keys to navigate)   Email to a friend    Permalink

Undersea eruptions near Tonga

Scientists sailed out to have a closer look at the eruptions of an undersea volcano off the coast of Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean today. Tonga's head geologist, Kelepi Mafi, said there was no apparent danger to residents of Nuku'alofa and others living on the main island of Tongatapu. Officials also said it may be related to a quake with a magnitude of 4.4 which struck last March 13 around 35 kilometers from the capital at a depth of nearly 150 kilometres. (I know this is an off-day posting, but really, thought the images were worth it - 12 photos total)

An undersea volcano erupts off the coast of Tonga, sending plumes of steam, ash and smoke up to 100 meters into the air, on March 18, 2009, off the coast of Nuku'Alofa, Tonga. (Dana Stephenson/Getty Images)

An undersea volcano erupts off the coast of Tonga, tossing clouds of smoke, steam and ash thousands of meters into the sky above the South Pacific ocean, Tuesday, March 17, 2009. The eruption was at sea about 10 kilometers from the southwest coast of the main island of Tongatapu, an area where up to 36 undersea volcanoes are clustered. (AP Photo/Trevor Gregory) #

First in a series of undersea volcano eruption photos off the coast of Tonga, taken March 18th by photographer Dana Stephenson. (Dana Stephenson/Getty Images) #

Second in a series of undersea volcano eruption photos off the coast of Tonga, taken March 18th by photographer Dana Stephenson. (Dana Stephenson/Getty Images) #

Third in a series of undersea volcano eruption photos off the coast of Tonga, taken March 18th by photographer Dana Stephenson. (Dana Stephenson/Getty Images) #

Fourth in a series of undersea volcano eruption photos off the coast of Tonga, taken March 18th by photographer Dana Stephenson. (Dana Stephenson/Getty Images) #

Fifth in a series of undersea volcano eruption photos off the coast of Tonga, taken March 18th by photographer Dana Stephenson. (Dana Stephenson/Getty Images) #

Sixth in a series of undersea volcano eruption photos off the coast of Tonga, taken March 18th by photographer Dana Stephenson. (Dana Stephenson/Getty Images) #

An undersea volcano erupts about 10 kilometers off the Tongatapu coast of Tonga sending plumes of steam and smoke hundreds of meters into the air. (LOTHAR SLABON/AFP/Getty Images) #

An undersea volcano erupts off the coast of Tonga on March 18, 2009. (Dana Stephenson/Getty Images) #

An undersea volcano erupts off the coast of Tonga on March 18, 2009. (Dana Stephenson/Getty Images) #

The plume of an erupting undersea volcano is seen off the coast of Nuku'Alofa, Tonga on March 18, 2009. (Dana Stephenson/Getty Images) #
An interactive Google Map of Tonga and nearby seafloor. View Larger Map #


#9 - Let's see how close we can get and survive!

Posted by dan March 20, 09 11:38 AM

I see Gandolf from LOTR in #8... but that's just me.

Posted by Cathleen March 20, 09 11:56 AM

#6 is my fave and my new desktop. Looks like Bigfoot.

Posted by moi March 20, 09 12:11 PM

The beginning of the end, get prepared!!! Yahweh is starting to get up off his seat!!!

Posted by Yahweh Saves!!! March 20, 09 12:23 PM


Posted by PA March 20, 09 12:27 PM

This appears to be on an upper shelf of the ocean floor - from the last photo and that there is a lower sea floor that drops off to the right. Distance is hard to note. I wondered if the volcano would cause a new Island to be formed. Amazing to see this, but I wouldn't want to be close to it.

Posted by Ruby March 20, 09 12:35 PM

Welcome back to earth Dr. Manhattan!

Posted by des March 20, 09 12:42 PM

The forces of Nature at work! In #6, it looks like a sitting dog or bear, #7 is Godzilla rising from the ocean, #8 has the face of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns, looking toward the left, and an owl next to Him, and # 10 looks like our very own symbol of America and freedom, the Bald Eagle. Thank you for enabling my imagination! This is so incredible, and I am glad you are willing to take the risk to bring us such beauty!

Posted by Jennifer March 20, 09 12:47 PM

It's GODZILLA!!!!!

Posted by jake March 20, 09 12:49 PM


I know its about 10 kilometres SW of Tongatapu, but can anyone here point to the precise location of this eruption on a sea map?


Posted by Matthias March 20, 09 12:53 PM

So what's Al Gore's take on this??

Posted by Theresa Walsh March 20, 09 12:54 PM

I meant #7 looks like bigfoot. #6 is indeed a teddybear at the top as somebody else pointed out.

Posted by moi March 20, 09 12:58 PM

Mrs. Carlson's social studies class says it's huge, cool, astonishing, dirty, hot, and do the birds taste like chicken?

Posted by Anonymous March 20, 09 01:04 PM

Let's get to the point. Does this mean God is happy with us and he is showing us something beutiful? Or is this like a warning shot, before he really get mad?

I think the latter. REPENT!

Posted by mark wusinich March 20, 09 01:08 PM


Posted by Anonymous March 20, 09 01:16 PM

where is this at?

Posted by rie heverly March 20, 09 01:17 PM

O0o Snapplez..............!!

Posted by Danny Boii March 20, 09 01:35 PM

My thanks to the brave men who shot these incredible photos of nature at its most magnificent. We are witnessing a timely event�and the splendid birthing process of nature.

Posted by Oceanpearl March 20, 09 01:37 PM

Wow amazing picture. They truly dare and risking their live to take that shoot ! I give A++++

Posted by Affiliate Revenue Resources March 20, 09 01:40 PM

Woooooooowowowowwwoww thats really great!!! I wish i could have been there and seen something sooo awesome!!!!

Posted by Dan March 20, 09 01:48 PM

Wo0ow this is very interesting....amazing wa the world is turning will demenish little by be prepared for the WORST!!!!!!!!!

Posted by DanNyS SwaGgA!!!! March 20, 09 01:53 PM

This is Bush's fault.

Posted by e-man March 20, 09 01:59 PM


Posted by NIGNOG March 20, 09 02:07 PM

Wonder if any underwater ground-shifts have caused changes in localized sea levels? Some tidal waves are caused by underwater earthquakes. Hope everyone is safe.

Posted by Geofreak March 20, 09 02:26 PM

Whoever those people are in these pictures are nuts to get that close. Holy cow!
I'm glad some people are brave enough to get that close. Not me!!!
Cool pixs! Mother Earth relieving some pressure big time!

Posted by Jgo March 20, 09 02:44 PM

I like the guy pointing at the explosion on the boat. I mean just in case anyone didn't know where it was!

Posted by Mark March 20, 09 02:47 PM

Will all the people stop about GOD and End of Days. My parents are very religious people and the world has been ending since I was born. I am 30 now and we are still here. When the world ends it ends. I hate everytime there is something going on in the world - that is the 1st REASON!!!

Posted by Maria Berrios March 20, 09 02:50 PM

Funny how most disbelievers of human induced global warming can't separate the ideas of natural climate changes versus human induced. Someone stating they don't believe climate change has anything to do with human activity obviously doesn't believe in the idea of cause and effect; something that was quantified in one sense by Newton 300 years ago. Come on people, it's 2009 not 1599! Take some physics and chemistry courses; understand them! In the words of Michael Jackson, "Don't be ignorant!".

Posted by Eikichi March 20, 09 02:50 PM

Big question? In short time,one month North Pole (Alaska) and South Pole (Tongatapu Group, Nuku'Alofa, South Pacific Ocean, Close New Zeeland.(1800 mile.aprox.) When, what and where the next? Prediction?

Posted by Didi March 20, 09 02:51 PM


Posted by Anonymous March 20, 09 03:04 PM

The Word says...before the end, we can look for and will see earthquake in "divers" places. Be ready...

Posted by Guillamette March 20, 09 03:10 PM

I have never seen such an awesome sight! Very intreaging. I will pray for anyone within the path of that powerful creature.

Posted by Astounded March 20, 09 03:16 PM

Very cool photos! How wounderful to see such rare photos of mother nature at work. Thank you.

Posted by Freda in NY March 20, 09 03:16 PM

Just God rearranging things a bit

Posted by Fred Miller March 20, 09 03:18 PM

God Almighty, looks like some of the photos of the Twin Towers falling on 9/11

Posted by dc March 20, 09 03:19 PM

sweet my breath was taken away.

Posted by heather March 20, 09 03:24 PM

Thanxs for sharing this magnificient shots, Scarry but awesome. Time to do some serious praying.

Posted by horns March 20, 09 03:29 PM

for the idiot that said that these are the kinds of things that are causing global climate are a moron. scientists have proven that the earth is actually in a cooling period and will continue to be in this period for quite some time. take that liberal "global warming" hoax somewhere else!

Posted by adam March 20, 09 03:30 PM


Posted by david marshall March 20, 09 03:43 PM

This is the work of the Great Goddess of Fire, Pele! Thank you for sharing these wondrous photographs. We humans are so insignificant in the face of the Great Mother, Nature. Blessed be!

Posted by Joan March 20, 09 04:01 PM


Posted by MAMA BOO March 20, 09 04:12 PM


Posted by ADEDOTUN OSINAIKE March 20, 09 04:33 PM

Best I ever seen in my life show you that the world can change at any time.

Posted by Frank J Aquila March 20, 09 04:36 PM

wow that was really cool

Posted by sydney March 20, 09 04:39 PM

This is surely the work of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch!

Stunning photography, by the way. Although I must question the sanity of the photographer, and the others in the boat.


Posted by NobblySan March 20, 09 04:40 PM

hey thats cool !!!!!

Posted by diana March 20, 09 04:41 PM


Posted by Anonymous March 20, 09 04:42 PM

omfg. so afraid
i'm from brasil n thx god here doesn't have volcanos


Posted by Camila March 20, 09 05:22 PM

Truly great photos. Thanks from Missouri for posting for all to see. H.H.

Posted by J Hamsher March 20, 09 05:33 PM

Photo #7 looks like it has the face of the devil, it"s scarey looking. Then theres photo #6 and it looks like the snuggle bear.

Posted by Kim March 20, 09 05:46 PM


Posted by Abbie Powers March 20, 09 05:47 PM

O.K., let me clarify things here. There seems to be quite a bit of discussion about picture #9 and why this person is pointing to something that seems to be so obvious. Sadly, from this picture you do not have the ability to make out the location he's pointing to. Well for those of you who don't recognize, if you look at the name of the company on his jacket, you may or may not know that is the LARGEST Real Estate company in Tonga. The man is just doing his job, scouting out new development property.

Posted by Tony March 20, 09 06:17 PM

I really think it is amazing that much power and yet it seems as if it was contolled by a loving God who had the power to create this world in the 1st place, I just thank Him for his protective care day by day and know that of our selves we can do nothing to protect or change natures situation .... Arlene L. Anderson

Posted by Anonymous March 20, 09 06:18 PM

I can't get over the quietness of the surrounding sea. Is there an expectation of a tsunami?

Posted by L. Franks March 20, 09 06:24 PM

#9 looks like Mufasa! LOL

Posted by Van March 20, 09 06:24 PM

Geezus H!!! I sure as hell would not want to be the one trolling for fish in that area. It would sure as heck ruin your day.

Posted by remle March 20, 09 06:48 PM

This is just amazing! Thank goodness it was far enough off shore that no one was hurt! But I reaaallllyyy hope some islands are formed because of them

Posted by Tamy March 20, 09 06:51 PM

NO, NO GOD, PEOPLE. this is nature.

stop being so superstitious

Posted by whitney harte March 20, 09 07:54 PM

What is it with you people and your God obsessions?! End of days???? It's a natural eruption of an undersea volcano for crying out loud! It has happened many times before and will happen many times again. Just because YOU have never seen it doesn't mean it hasn't happened! It's just astounding to me that the ignorant have to start shouting and chanting about God and Allah and all that junk every time something happens in the world. It's so tiresome.

Posted by Joeb March 20, 09 07:54 PM


Posted by CRAIG HAMILTON March 20, 09 09:45 PM

#137, what do you think would happen to a dog that had 6 billion fleas living on it? Do you think the dog would be affected at all?

Posted by dumbass hater March 20, 09 10:40 PM


Posted by estefania March 20, 09 10:56 PM

HDLC! There go my carbon credits!

Posted by Mark Yannone March 20, 09 11:02 PM

The Power of God is amazing! Glad He's in control, total control. Amen.

Posted by Spidey March 21, 09 12:48 AM

For all of the people saying this is God's work. I hope if you are following the so called "Word" as close as you take this undersea volcano eruption as a sign of the "end of times". Is it safe to say that you stone any women who is not a virgin before marriage also?

Posted by Joe March 21, 09 02:23 AM

If you appreciate the power of a volcano checkout the Globe's photos of the Chaiten volcano in Chili last year. Those are THE most awesome photos I have seen of the power and majesty of God or nature or whatever you want to give credit to.. They were even able to catch the lightening storm generated by the eruption! Unfortunately that eruption resulted in death and destruction where this one just resulted in amazing pictures. Fantastic photography of both.

Posted by BAFFP March 21, 09 02:37 AM

Fantastic.These guys must have a lot of guts getting so close to it.Well that's what real journalism is all about.

Posted by harjit Sachar March 21, 09 03:06 AM

Hey hang on folks...It's a fake volcanic activity. Actually it's the Tongans testing a new WMD (Weapon of Marine Disaster) to be used against their nearest neighbour, Fiji.

Posted by Einstein March 21, 09 03:57 AM

Hello! My name is Joseph. I kind of met you at sxsw 09. I was your tech guy, that you did not need, at sxsw. The pics that I viewed during your panel were amazing! I was just.........really in awwwwwww! Your emotions that you showed were even more special. I, we i shold say, saw something that....... this is my 6th sxsw and I have never had a panel be as still, focused, in tuned and heart broken then your panel was. I give you all the respect that a simple person can give. I hope you will come back next year. If so, i will be that tech guy in the corner you do not need. Cheers and please keep up the great job!!!!!!!!



Posted by jfm March 21, 09 05:29 AM

It's Sponge Bob and he is pissed off at something-!!

Posted by D Tz March 21, 09 06:12 AM

That is absobloodyluty amzing!!!

Posted by saz bear March 21, 09 06:26 AM

Feel as though you are there? All you need are the sounds and smell. I feel as though there has been more volcanic and tectonic activity recently than ever; am I right, or is it the high frequency of reporting these events in the press?

Posted by Alan B Steele March 21, 09 07:00 AM

When you see all theair pollution this creates, why are the stupid enviromentalists attempting to make our lives miserable with the changes that are meaningless in comparision. They are forcing changes upon us that will make very small changes, nothing comparable to this erruption.

Posted by Ray Meenen March 21, 09 10:28 AM

People this is only the beginning of the end of the world this will turn the seas red now with dying sea animals. You better get right with God before its too late.

Posted by Anonymous March 21, 09 10:32 AM

Holy Cow...
Aren't those people afraid of the aftershocks in the water?? Can you say tsunami?

Posted by Steve March 21, 09 10:36 AM

Wow this is quite amazing. The earth is a ever changing entity. With events like this, it really gives you a perspective of how powerful nature can be. I wish I could have been one of the lucky individuals to be able to witness such an event.

Posted by Allison March 21, 09 11:18 AM

#8 looks like a monster from underneath my bed.

Posted by Andrea Pancake March 21, 09 11:28 AM

Tsunamis? eartquakes?hurricane?asteroid impacts? volcanic eruption? undersea volcano? Nobody can control or dominate Mother nature.

Posted by Irv and Theresa March 21, 09 11:57 AM

most amazing pictures I have ever seen!

Posted by Harriet March 21, 09 12:05 PM

Please double check caption-
" Officials also said it may be related to a quake with a magnitude of 4.4 which struck last March 13 around 35 kilometers from the capital at a depth of nearly 150 kilometres. "
According to a skeptical acquaintence - that puts the eruption 93+/- miles down.

Posted by MikePin MN March 21, 09 12:09 PM

it is really amazing!!

Posted by audra regan March 21, 09 01:00 PM

:-0 !!!!
I came by this article by mistake and the pics are just stunning!
wow wow wow..

Posted by Limitz March 21, 09 01:23 PM

Amazing how many of these comments are about either God or global warming. Can't a man just enjoy a good eruption anymore, without it being either the end of the world or a political talking point? It's a volcano, underwater. Full stop. Let's just enjoy the amazing photography for once instead of linking everything to the argument we were having before anyway. It's getting really tiresome. Well done, photographers.

Posted by Ian March 21, 09 02:22 PM

Awesome photos! I wonder how the photographers just happened to be there when it blew its stack? Rumble, rumble...maybe? Posted by Bill D.

Posted by William Daniel March 21, 09 02:41 PM

i love my mommy

Posted by pedro March 21, 09 03:00 PM


Posted by nick March 21, 09 03:35 PM

Nothing to see here, no underwater nuclear testing. Move along. And get checked for cancer, that happens randomly.

Posted by Ford March 21, 09 05:07 PM

this is da first time 4 me 2 c da volcano eruption pictures

Posted by rohit March 21, 09 05:10 PM

I've enjoyed studying volcanos since I was a child. Driving by cinder cones and lava floes in the desert east of the Sierra Nevada Mts. of California with my parents, I was in wonder. How did they get there? I learned that we still had some "live" volcanos on the west coast of North America when a new volcano rose out of a corn field in Mexico in 1949. "LIFE" Magazine had lots of pictures. I was fascinated every time I saw pictures of a new eruption in Hawaii. I really wanted to go and see in person. Hawaiians talk about Madame Pele, the goddess of their volcanos. They have special words to describe lava and volcanic residue. I remember the smell in the crater when I visited "Big Island". All the Hawaiian Islands were born like these photos show. Gradual building up from the ocean floor.
When it comes to religious thinking, most cultures believe in a creator God that formed the earth and heavens. After that, life appeared. Many cultures believe that humans, able to think, are meant to take care of the earth. Common sense says if we don't we lose. Many cultures accept the idea of Mother Earth as encouraging life. We see this happen on "new" islands already appeared in the Pacific Ocean. It only takes a few years for plants to take hold. Amazing! So think of these eruptions as part of the life cycle, in an area where beautiful islands exist, and beautiful, native peoples live, who know how to care for the land. I remember the former king of Tonga as a person greatly respected. My best wishes go out to the Tonga people.

Posted by Dorothy O'Brien March 21, 09 05:22 PM

Great photo's, and the comments are just as good!

Posted by Richard Robb March 21, 09 05:55 PM

According to Simon Wincester: "A Crack in the Edge of the Earth", volcanoes and earthquakes go hand in hand. He predicts the next big volcano to erupt in North American will be in Yellowstone, which has been rumbling for a long time to the entertainment of tourists. Then it flows for about 6000 years according to geologists account of its long past. In fact, it is due to erupt at any time now.
So, we can expect anything.

Posted by Carolyn Ritchie March 21, 09 06:34 PM

This is one of God's ways to let us know worst things are coming if we don't change our ways.I our personal lives and also the bankd and govering people who should know better.
They were predicted,and they happened.

Posted by Bunny March 21, 09 06:50 PM

ici a Tahiti ( french polyn�sia ) on a eue plus de peur que de mal avec l' alerte au tsunami , heureusement que nous avant le meilleur syst�me d'alerte aux tsunami grace au centre de Hawaii .

Posted by Moana March 21, 09 08:21 PM

Incredible photos! I've never seen anything like this. It's astounding!

Posted by ALeuice March 21, 09 09:02 PM

Hey, Bunny, poster number 233, did you mean to say LOCUSTS? Way to go, you say it's God's warning but you can't even get the other things he's "done" right. Awesome, good job.

Posted by bearcat March 21, 09 09:21 PM

Amazing! Wish I could of been there.

Posted by Olivia March 21, 09 09:31 PM

i like it

Posted by Taani Pulotu March 21, 09 09:46 PM

Natural beauty at it's best.....

Posted by Pamela March 21, 09 10:38 PM

Who says they aint makin no mo' land?
Wake up to
Restructured Alkaline Ionized Water
"View the Video" on homepage!

Posted by Jeff Goolst March 21, 09 10:54 PM

The pollution that this generates is offset by the other minerals it throws out. I'd be willing to get that the vegetation in the area benefits greatly from it. In comparison, I'd be surprised if the pollution we give off has any environmental benefit. In other words, these eruptions are just part of the cycle of the world.

Posted by Dessimat0r March 21, 09 11:53 PM
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