Off the coast of Japan, two volcanic islands have become one, a rare geological feat that has scientists guessing at how long the new, composite land mass will last. Last November, a new volcanic island, given the name Niijima, emerged from beneath the ocean's surface and began merging with its larger neighbor, Nishino Shima. Despite predictions at the time that it would sink back into the water in months, a common fate for volcanic islets, it's now believed that the resulting mass will last for several years, and maybe even permanently.
Seniority could dictate naming conventions for the post-merged island — because Nishino Shima emerged from an oceanic eruption some 40 years ago, while Niijima is not even a year old, their union will likely be referred to simply as Nishino Shima.
A cold dismissal of the smaller and younger of the pair, perhaps, but it's not the name that's had people chattering about this. Rather, it's the shape — some people on the internet believed, back in January, that the combined islands resembled Snoopy, the iconic and beloved dog of Peanuts fame. Whether this was true — it's a matter strictly of artistic interpretation, obviously — it's certainly less so now.
The highest peak of the island has shot up threefold from what it measured last December, vaulting from 20 to 60 meters high, and the total distance across is about one kilometer. It sits some 1000 kilometers south of Tokyo.
Volcanic islands aren't particularly rare, to be sure. Neither is it unique or rare for Japan, as this newest one is one of a chain of 30, known as the Bonin Islands. But they're nonetheless quite striking and evocative. There's just something so thrilling, and dwarfing, about watching an altogether new chunk of land rise up out of the seas.