Satellite Tracks Turtle Taking Giant Turn Before Tonga Volcanic Trouble
© REUTERS / NOAA/SSEC/CIMSSA plume rises over Tonga after the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupted in this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency on 15 January 2022, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video.
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcanic eruption in the Pacific Ocean was hundreds of times more powerful than the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima. Satellite images show the absolute destruction of three islands in Tonga due to a tsunami triggered by the undersea eruption.
A satellite tracker map shows that a transmitter-tagged turtle made a miraculous escape from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcanic eruption last month.
Jennie Gilbert of the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, who released "Tilly" last November, said that the female green sea turtle surprisingly moved backward after travelling 1,867-km near the volcanic island north of the Tongan capital Nuku'alofa.
"She was heading to either the Solomon Islands or Vanuatu in the straight line virtually. The day before Tonga blew, she turned around and started heading back", Gilbert wrote on her Facebook page.
The administrator assumes that some vibrations before the undersea eruption on 15 January may have caused a sudden giant U-turn by Tilly, who had just turned 3, in the Pacific Ocean.
"You hear about these stories, particularly with tsunamis, where animals try to start getting themselves out of the danger zone. I've never seen it happen before, and I think it's just incredible", Gilbert said.
An ecstatic Gilbert shared that the green turtle is so far undertaking the longest journey of any of the turtles the centre has tracked.
Scientists warned that a tsunami triggered by the volcanic eruption on 15 January could cause long-lasting damage to coral reefs and other biodiversity in the Pacific region.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, earlier this week, confirmed that the volcanic eruption had sent ripples into Earth's ionosphere, the outer layer of the atmosphere that starts about 50 to 56 miles (80 to 90 kilometres) above the Earth's surface and contains electrons ionised by the Sun's energy.