These are some of the youngest rocks on Earth.  New rocks are forming all the time, most visibly from cooling lava at erupting volcanoes.  One small but spectacular eruption that made the news in late 2007 was at Jabal al-Tair Volcano (“Bird Island Volcano”) in the southern Red Sea, offshore from Yemen (see news item & night-time photo of eruption).


A small, manned Yemeni military post on the island had to be evacuated when the volcano started erupting basaltic lavas from 30 September to earliest October 2007.  The Canadian Navy assisted in rescuing Yemeni personnel.


Jabal al-Tair Volcano is a small island about 70 miles off the coast of Yemen, in the southern Red Sea.  It's a mostly submerged basaltic stratovolcano.  It reportedly had noticeable eruptions in the 1300s, the 1700s, and the 1800s.  It is part of a line of volcanic activity down the central axis of the Red Sea, a very young oceanic basin formed by tectonic rifting of Arabia away from Africa.  The Afar Hotspot is responsible for the separation of Arabia from Africa, and is also responsible for the long, deep gash that is the East African Rift Valley.


Tachylite (frothy basalt glass) from the end-September to earliest October 2007 eruption of Jabal al-Tair Volcano in the southern Red Sea.  Sample on left (2.0 cm across) has surficial stretching features formed when the basalt was still fluid.  Sample on right (1.9 cm across) shows some bluish iridescence, a not-uncommon feature on young mafic volcanic products.



These samples were found floating in the Red Sea about 6 nautical miles northwest of the island.  They were collected at 2 PM (local time) on 3 October 2007 by personnel from the HMCS Toronto.


Generously donated by the Canadian Navy.


Location of Volcano: ~15° 31’ 57” North, ~41° 49’ 07” East.



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