Logo link to homepage

Report on Home Reef (Tonga) — April 1984

Home Reef

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 9, no. 4 (April 1984)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Home Reef (Tonga) Large pumice rafts; new island shown

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1984. Report on Home Reef (Tonga) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 9:4. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198404-243080

Home Reef


18.992°S, 174.775°W; summit elev. -10 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Tonga government geologist David Tappin reported that brown discolored water preceded the eruption, which started 1-2 March. The new island was visible by 2 March. When Captain Jeff Heard of SPIA flight 607 flew over the eruption site on 5 March at 1030, explosive activity had declined. Weak steaming occurred from a submarine crater surrounded by the new island.

In mid-March, a cargo vessel traveling from Tonga to Fiji at 12 km per hour took 9 hours to pass through a zone of pumice. Samples were collected from this vessel about 150 km W of Tonga. Pumice rafts were reportedly sighted at Oneata Island, Lau Group (18.45°S, 178.50°W, roughly 500 km WNW of Home Reef) on 5 April. On 1 May, ships between Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa reported that floating pumice was so thick that it was clogging their seawater intake systems.

RNZAF personnel flew over the new island 23 March. They gave its location as 19.02°S, 174.73°W, about 10 km S of Late Island. Dimensions of the new island were estimated at 1500 m by 500 m, with cliffs about 30-50 m high (figure 1). Discolored water just NW of the island suggested submarine activity. Photographs taken from upwind showed the island to be yellowish brown in color, but atmospheric haze caused it to appear dark brown from downwind. David Tappin reported that activity was continuing in early April.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. RNZAF photo of the new island formed by the Home Reef eruption, taken 23 March 1984 from about 300 m altitude. The island trends approximately N-S, with N at right. Courtesy of W/O P.J.R. Shepherd and J.H. Latter.

The RSP did not record any seismicity from the eruption. Islands and deep water between Tahiti and Tonga prevented RSP stations from recording any acoustic waves (T-phase).

Geological Summary. Home Reef, a submarine volcano midway between Metis Shoal and Late Island in the central Tonga islands, was first reported active in the mid-19th century, when an ephemeral island formed. An eruption in 1984 produced a 12-km-high eruption plume, large amounts of floating pumice, and an ephemeral 500 x 1,500 m island, with cliffs 30-50 m high that enclosed a water-filled crater. In 2006 an island-forming eruption produced widespread dacitic pumice rafts that drifted as far as Australia. Another island was built during a September-October 2022 eruption.

Information Contacts: D. Tappin, Ministry of Lands, Survey, and Natural Resources, Tonga; P. Shepherd, RNZAF; J. Latter, DSIR, Wellington; J. Lum, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Fiji; R. Krishna, Fiji Meteorological Service; J. Talandier, Lab. de Geophysique, Tahiti; N. Banks, HVO, Hawaii.