Life Finds A Way on Japan’s Young Volatile Island

Nishinoshima remains a vision of resilience.

Off the coast of Japan, an underground volcano has been steadily creating an island in the deadly Pacific Ring of Fire. Nishinoshima has been quietly growing in the past half century, but has recently been housing grass, succulents, and endangered birds.

 

The First Eruption

Years ago, the little island was no more than 30 kilometers wide. It remained as the tip of a dormant undersea volcano, with no eruptions for thousands of years. One summer in 1973, a passing ship saw white smoke rise east of the island. The sea turned yellow-green, a whirlpool started swirling, and soon enough rocks emerged. New islands formed around the old island, and eventually molded its own craterlet.

Lava kept flowing to claim more territory for the next few months. Around a year after the first eruption, there was radio silence. It was calm once more on Nishinoshima, and the little island has taken on the shape of a crescent moon.