Island off the coast of Pakistan disappears into the sea over a period of six years

The island was oval-shaped and was formed due to a mud volcano that erupted in September 2013.


In September 2013, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit Pakistan, the death toll stopped at 825 people and there were many injured.

But there was one more thing that came out from this. A tiny baby island sprang up in a shallow bay near the port city of Gwadar. The island was named Zalazala Koh which means 'Earthquake Mountain' in Urdu. (Genius, I know.)

The island was oval-shaped and 20 meters high, 90 meters wide and 40 meters long. It was formed due to a mud volcano that erupts overlying sediments. The volcano was the result of the shifting of plate tectonics. The Arabian plate is sinking beneath the Eurasian plate by a few centimetres per year. The process pushes soft sediments onto the edge of the Eurasian plate and becomes a key ingredient for mud volcanoes.

Island off the coast of Pakistan disappears into the sea over a period of six years

An aerial view of the island on September 26, 2013. Image credit: National Institute of Oceanography

Geologists said that this island would not last long when faced with high tides and waves. They would wash away the mud and chip away at the mud volcano.

Those geologists were right.

The island, six years later, has now completely disappeared. Satellite images of the area over the years showed mud discolouring the surrounding areas near the island. This was because of the erosion that was taking place. By the end of 2016, there was not much of the island left above the water.

The series of images above shows the island in April and September 2013, November 2016, and April 2019. Image credit: Landsat

The series of images above shows the island in April and September 2013, November 2016, and April 2019. Image credit: Landsat

While it can’t be seen anymore, that does not mean it has disappeared completely. In 2019, Landsat images showed hints of the island. In June 2019, more images showed “trails of sediments circulation around the submerged base.

Islands produced by mud volcanoes in this region have a history of coming and going. About 125 kilometres to the east, another small, circular mud island — Malan Island — has emerged a few kilometres off the coast and eroded away twice in the past 20 years (emerging in 1999 and 2010). Malan Island is also reported to be one of three mud volcano islands that briefly emerged following a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Balochistan in 1945.

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