Fire & Earth

Today, I hopped aboard a helicopter to get view of Mauritius from above. I’ve never been in a helicopter before today. It was the perfect way to learn how this island formed in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Mauritius is a volcanic island. Most very large islands, like Madagascar or Long Island, are continental islands. These are created by water rising and separating them from the main land, or by shifts in the earth’s surface that pull them away. Volcanic islands like Mauritius form as a result of volcanic activity instead.

Mauritius formed between seven to ten million years ago by an underwater volcano. The same volcano created nearby Réunion Island. Réunion Island formed in the last 2 million years.

Mauritius hasn’t had an active volcano in more than 100,000 years, but Réunion is home to one of the world’s most active volcanos known as Piton de la Fournaise!

One of the amazing results of Mauritius’ formation is the Seven Coloured Sands, also called Chamarel. This is a series of multi-colored sand dunes located in the southwest part of Mauritius.

The seven different colors are a result of minerals mixed in with the earth, and each reflects different colored light. For example, iron-rich sand appears red in color, and aluminum-rich sand looks blue or purple. Scientists believe that the different colors were created when lava cooled at different temperatures.

I was told that if I grabbed a handful of each color and mixed them up, the different types of sand would separate back into stripes over time. Wow!