Volcanic activity near Tokyo has formed a new island and brought partially sunken WWII battleships into better view, creating an eerie sight of ghost ships that recalls one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. Marine history.
About 1,300 kilometers south of the Japanese capital, the volcanoes have been erupting since late August. Seismic activity from one of them, an underwater volcano called Fukutoku-Okanoba, has created a new small, C-shaped island. Although it measured about 1 kilometer in diameter above water when the islet first emerged, it’s been slowly sinking and is now one-third of its former size.
But the same tectonic plate movement that gave birth to the island also pushed up the nearby island of Iwo Jima, exposing more of the vessels—though they’ve always been visible.
Images of the new islet and the chilling ships have been widely circulating on Japanese social media. The last time an island emerged from the Fukutoku-Okanoba volcano was 35 years ago, and many are puzzled by the startling image of the rising WWII battleships.
Some described the emerged vessels as an “amazing sight.” One Twitter user wondered if in 10 or 20 years’ time, “people would have moved in to live on the ships.”
According to the Japanese Coast Guard, the emerging new islet is actually hardened lava from the submarine volcano, Fukutoku-Okanoba. The island is composed of pumice and volcanic ash, which erodes easily when exposed to the surrounding elements, explaining why the islet has started to sink. Experts predict the island won’t survive much longer.
The WWII vessels that have risen with Iwo Jima are said to be sunken Japanese ships from the Battle of Iwo Jima, a major fight toward the end of the war. The U.S. Marines landed and seized the island, killing more than 20,000 Japanese soldiers, nearly three times the number of American soldiers killed in the same battle.
Although relatively small in land mass, Japan has about 10 percent of the world’s active volcanoes, ones that either erupted in the past 10,000 years or emit volcanic gases.
Mount Fuji, one of Japan’s most famous cultural symbols, is a volcano that’s been dormant for over 300 years, and is rumored due to erupt at any given time.
Located on the southwestern island Kyushu, the popular tourist destination Mount Aso erupted on Wednesday, blasting plumes of ash. No injuries were reported, but the Japan Meteorology Agency warned nearby residents not to approach the volcano.