Tonga Boat Owner Wants to Name New Pacific Island After His Son

 / Updated 
Zandy Sugar steps walks on the shore of a new island created by a volcanic eruption earlier this year. Charter boat owner Branko Sugar told NBC via email that the new land deserved a name and suggested Zandy, after his son, the first person to touch the black volcanic soil.
Zandy Sugar steps walks on the shore of a new island created by a volcanic eruption earlier this year. Charter boat owner Branko Sugar told NBC via email that the new land deserved a name and suggested Zandy, after his son, the first person to touch the black volcanic soil. Branko Sugar

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

How long does an island have to exist before it deserves a name?

That's the question that's fueling an heated debate around the Pacific island territory of Tonga, which added to its landmass earlier this year when a volcanic island erupted from the ocean floor.

Earth's newest island is only about a mile long and was created after a underwater eruption in January. Scientists aren't even sure it will remain above sea-level, but photos taken by the first three visitors to step on its surface drew world-wide attention last week.

One of the three, charter boat owner Branko Sugar, told NBC News via email that the new land deserved a name and suggested Zandy, after his son, seen in the photo above, who was the first person to touch the black volcanic soil.

Charter boat owner was one of the first people to visit a new island formed a volcanic eruption in the Pacific island territory of Tonga.
Charter boat owner was one of the first people to visit a new island formed a volcanic eruption in the Pacific island territory of Tonga.Courtesy of Branko Sugar

The government, however, wants to wait to see if the island has staying power. Tonga’s Justice Minister Hon Vuna Fāʻotusia told the Kaniva News paper that the authorities are awaiting geographical confirmation that the island's future above water is secure.

“Normally the king names new islands but the cabinet has no resolution yet to decide a name,” he said.

Sugar, who visited alongside Zandy and Tongan hotel owner GP Orbassano on March 6, recalled they spent 3-4 hours on the island on a very hot day, He estimated the temperature, maximized by the sun's reflection on the black sand and soil, was about 120 degrees Farenheit.

But he remains enthralled by the new island and plans a return visit. "We will explore the sulfur lake more closely next time," he said.

A photo by charter boat owner Branco Sugar shows the space between two islands before a volcanic eruption created a third island.
A photo by charter boat owner Branco Sugar shows the space between two islands before a volcanic eruption created a third island.Branco Sugar
After the eruption, a third island formed between the older Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai volcanic islets.
After the eruption, a third island formed between the older Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai volcanic islets.GP Orbassano
Gallery: First Photos of New Pacific Island
— Seán Federico-O'Murchú

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
MORE FROM news