Floating pumice covers 7,500 square miles of South Pacific Ocean

Aerial view of the pumice "raft" (Image: AFP/New Zealand Defence Force)

Pumice, the lightweight stone used to smooth skin, is usually found in beauty salons, but on Thursday sailors from New Zealand’s Royal Navy found more than 7,500 square miles of the lava rock bobbing on the surface of the South Pacific Ocean.

By comparison, the state of Rhode Island comprises approximately 1,200 square miles.

The sea of white rock was initially spotted by air and then relayed to a ship for further investigation, according to a statement released by the New Zealand Royal Navy.

Pumice is typically a by product of lava that has cooled quickly after a volcanic eruption. The lava forms a rock so lightweight it floats on the water’s surface.

Officials reported the floating rock shelf to be 250 nautical miles long by 30 nautical miles wide.

The pumice was found half way between New Zealand and Tonga by the NZ Navy while sailing southwest of Raoul Island

“The rock looked to be sitting two feet above the surface of the waves, and lit up a brilliant white color in the spotlight. It looked exactly like the edge of an ice shelf

Sailors said taking their ship directly into the floating pumice to gather samples for research scientists didn’t put the vessel at risk because the rock was so lightweight.

The rock came from an underwater volcanic eruption, and now scientists will work to determine which volcano was responsible.

According to scientists who have been briefed by the navy, an volcano named Monowai has been active and the pumice could be a result.

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