21.2 C
Byron Shire
September 17, 2021

Life upon pumice, drifting to us from NZ trenches

Latest News

Goonellabah drive-thru COVID testing this weekend at GSAC

With the community in lockdown, Lismore City Council says it is important for to get tested for COVID-19, even if you only have the mildest of symptoms. 

Other News

XR to protest outside NAB tomorrow

Extinction Rebellion (XR) Lismore and their supporters say they will protest at the Woodlark Street branch of the National Australia Bank (NAB) from 12pm tomorrow, Tuesday, September 14.

COVID venues of concern at Evans Head and Lismore

Three new venues of concern have been added to the list of COVID-19 venues of concern following a student...


Mask mandates are flawed orders that violate the human right to informed consent. Businesses that demand their customers wear...

Update: Lismore going into lockdown at 6pm

Lismore local government area (LGA) is going into lockdown for seven days from 6pm tonight following a positive case of COVID-19 in Goonellabah yesterday.

Vaccination by the mob for the mob at Tweed – No appointment needed

The local mob has come together to ensure that vaccination is available for any of the mob in the Northern Rivers who wants to get vaccinated.

State gov’t services failing to keep up with regional population growth, says independent Ballina councillor

Cr Cadwallader told The Echo on Thursday she’d be asking council staff to pursue the matter of policing resources in the shire after last month winning majority council support to pressure the government on the future of Lennox Head Public School.

Locally found pumice covered in anemones. Photo Denis Reik

Denis Riek

Pumice. You have probably seen some along the tide line at the beach, much of these little grey rocks that float in with the onshore wind were born underwater 1,500kms to the east.

The small amounts are mostly what is left of the enormous amount of pumice that was produced when, in July 2012, the Havre seamount exploded in what is reported as the largest deep ocean volcanic eruption to be recorded, one and a half times the magnitude of Mt St Helens.

The initial raft was estimated to be in the vicinity of 400 square kilometres and two and three metres thick. 

Havre is close to the Kermadec Islands, midway between New Zealand and Tonga, in a very active volcanic trench. With the prevailing current, it took about a year for most of the pumice to drift across to the Coral Sea and disperse down the east coast, first reaching here in large amounts in May 2013, and then slowly decreasing after that.

Anemone photo Denis Reik

Smaller pieces tended to not have much marine life attached, but larger pieces up to 15-20 cm were often overgrown, especially if they had been bobbing around in the open ocean for a lot longer. Unfortunately, there is only a small window of opportunity to collect and photograph – an hour or two in the sun and wind kills any stranded marine life, so I quickly get several promising pieces into an aerated saltwater tank and wait to see what emerges. 

What looked like a lifeless slimy lump on the beach slowly transforms. Anemones open up, goose-neck barnacles begin straining food particles, worms, amphipods and other crustaceans move through the hydroids and bryozoans that cover parts of the surface.

Sea slug photo by Denis Reik

Nudibranchs are sometimes found, as are small crabs, tube building polychaete worms, snails, flatworms and corals. Several hours can often be spent, sitting in front of a small tank, peering down a macro lens, waiting for a worm to stick its head out of a hole, or a pair of nudibranchs to do what comes naturally.

I have been able to photograph around 60 species and that excludes the really small species that are beyond the range of my macro gear and my eyesight.

Tube worm photo Denis Reik

So, if you’re in Bruns, you might see an old bloke down the beach with an arm full of slimy pumice, or a bucket full of kelp holdfasts, or more often wandering along the tide line trying to beat the gulls to the latest stranding. It’s just me and now you know what I’m up to.’

For more info visit www.roboastra.com.

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. Yes, I remember seeing great swathes of pumice washed up along the Tweed coast. Interesting to learn where the pumice raft came from & the life it supports. What good images!

  2. Greetings Denis! Good to know you are still poking about and taking photos.
    We spoke years ago when a little jellyfish species was named after you.
    Do you ever notice any population changes in these small aniamls?
    Maybe even absence/presence changes over the years?

    Here is link to article and map from 2012
    of pumic rafts known over the last 200 years. Lots of volcanic activity

    all the best


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Reece Byrnes re-elected as Tweed Deputy Mayor

With many many local councils are juggling the elections timetable owing to COVID-19 restrictions, and last night the Tweed Shire elected their Deputy Mayor.

COVID update includes trial of home quarantine

When media were told that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian would be at today's 11am update, we expected big news – the Premier said last week she would only attend the updates if it were important news.

How is RT-PCR used to diagnose COVID-19?

It’s fast, reliable and full of lines – but might look different to the PCR you learned about in school.

Queensland passes voluntary assisted dying laws

Dying with Dignity NSW has welcomed the passage of Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) laws in Queensland and is hoping that NSW Parliament resumes next month so that this issue can be addressed in NSW without further delay.