Pakistan Earthquake Creates New Island (and Mass Confusion Among Journalists)

Pakistani Government / AFP / Getty Images
Pakistani Government / AFP / Getty Images

A new land mass formed off Pakistan as a result of the recent earthquake. Press reports, um, diverge as to the actual size and location of the new island. Granted, most of these estimates are based on eyewitness reports, but the variation is pretty comical.


Time: “Half-a-mile off the coast of the Pakistani port city of Gwadar, a new expanse of land reported to be 100-feet high and 200-feet wide rose out of the ocean, NBC reports.”

BBC News: “People gathered on the beach to see the new island, which is reported to be about 200m (656ft) long, 100m wide and 20m high, and scientists have been sent to survey it.”

Wall Street Journal blog: “Pakistani television showed images of the formation, which Dawn newspaper said appeared to be about 200 meters long and 100 meters wide.”

FoxNews: “The island, which is up to 100 feet high and 200 feet wide, surfaced after the earthquake hit parts of Baluchistan,” senior local administration official Tufail Baluch told AFP.

Reuters: “The earthquake was so powerful that it caused the seabed to rise and create a small, mountain-like island about 600 meters (yards) off Pakistan’s Gwadar coastline in the Arabian Sea.”

New York Times: “Moazam Jah, a senior police officer in Gwadar, told the private news network Geo TV that the island appeared to be 100 feet wide and 40 feet in altitude.”

CNN: “The quake was strong enough to cause a mass 20 to 30 feet high to emerge from the Arabian Sea like a small mountain island off the coast of Gwadar, local police official Mozzam Jah said. A large number of people gathered to view the newly formed island, he said. … The island is about 100 feet in diameter and about one mile off the coast, GEO TV reported.”


Times of India: “The island is about 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 metres) high, up to 300 feet wide and up to 120 feet long, he said. It sits about 200 metres away from the coast.”

Hindustan Times: “‘The island, which is up to 100 feet high (30 metres) and 200 feet wide, surfaced after the earthquake hit parts of Baluchistan,’ senior local administration official Tufail Baluch told AFP.”

Yahoo! News (AP): “Gwadar Police Chief Pervez Umrani said the new land mass is about 9 meters (30 feet) high and 100 meters (109 yards) long and visible from the beach.”

MSN: “The new mound of earth appears to be 20 to 40 feet high and 100 feet wide and rose out of the sea at a spot about 350 feet from the coast.”

ABC News: “Accounts of the size and shape of the island vary. [Eyewitness Behram] Baloch describes it as roughly 200 feet long, jutting out from the water roughly a quarter mile from the coastline.”

The conversion from meters to feet to miles is clearly baffling to most journalists. But the booby prize participation award goes to the Huffington Post.

A rocky formation now juts above the water and is visible from the coast. As NDTV reports, the piece of land is estimated to span about 40 square feet.

Note to HuffPo: A king size bed spans about 40 square feet.


So, it’s as clear as mud. There is a new island between 100 meters and 1500 meters off the Pakistani coast. It is between 6 and 30 m high, between 30 m and 200 m long and 30 m to 100 m wide. Or maybe it could fit in your bedroom.

Probably the best discussion of the new island can be found here, at NBC News Science. The article discusses the mechanism of the island’s creation, but does not speculate on the size or distance offshore.

Using the photo above, and another taken from shore that shows the entire island, we can get a pretty good idea of its scale. For convenience, assume that one of the individuals visible in to top photo is 2 m tall. The island would appear to be roughly 5x his height, and the entire island is about 15x as “long” as it is tall.

Pakistan Island 2 9-25-2013 10-02-32 AM



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