Guam Can't Sink But Some Islands Can Swim

About a month ago, the comedic stylings of Georgia Representative Hank Johnson went viral when footage of him questioning the Navy’s plans to expand their Guam base made its way to the YouTube.  In the clip above, you can watch Rep. Johnson take entirely too long to get around to saying “My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated it will tip over and capsize.”

Yep.  Georgia elected this guy twice.

After the snickering ebbed and before the natural tide of depression rolled in, I got to wondering: are there actually floating islands?  Somewhere in the dim reaches of the past, I’d thought I’d heard something about that.

The sort of thing we thank the internet for is turning up books like Floating Islands: A Global Bibliography (PDF of the Addenda for that book available for free at that link).  Entires include such gems as:

“Attacked by Floating Isles: Skipper Tells of Hair-Raising Experience When Ship Was Saved Only by Weird Apes Fanning Selves in Lofty Trees and Giving Breeze That Blew Liner to Safety,” Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1924, p. 24 (a different, somewhat fantastic version of the article “A Floating Island Followed His Ship” cited in the book)

and

“A Floating Island,” Lincoln Evening News (Nebraska), November 19, 1910, p. 8 (the ship Atlas, en route from Philadelphia to Seattle by way of Cape Horn, saw in the Pacific a floating island “covered with trees and thick low underbrush. Birds and a few monkeys were seen upon it, but no other signs of life”; from the Springfield Republican; available through www.newspaperarchive.com)

It seems that if Rep. Johnson is looking for an island to flip, the most likely candidates would be pumice rafts, floating masses of stone and debris produced by volcanic activity.  While the 1883 eruption on Krakatoa largely destroyed the island, it also launched several floating pumice mats that drifted for up to twenty years, some entangled with enough debris to support plant life and animal life.  More recent eruptions have created similar rafts, including a 2006 eruption in Tonga that also created a new, non-floating island.  These rafts were visible by satellite and photographed by a yacht sailing through the area.

I’d like to see you flip one, though.  Those apes would rip you to shreds.

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