Sea turtle 'predicts' massive volcanic eruption and spends 47 days swimming away

Sea turtle Tilly swam more than 1,100 miles in January towards Tonga when she suddenly changed course, the day before Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai’s eruption

Tonga: A look at Tilly the turtle’s journey after release

A sea turtle who traveled thousands of miles towards Tonga suddenly changed course the day before a volcanic eruption caused carnage on the island nation.

Tilly, three, had recently been released into the waters near Australia and spent the next 47 days swimming east.

But on January 14 she suddenly turned around – 24 hours before Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai’s violent underwater eruption sent ash 60,000 feet into the sky, causing tsunamis devastating the islands.

Tilly, and her brother Sammy, were released in November with small trackers attached to their shells so scientists can check their progress.

They are baffled by their sudden change of direction.

Tilly the Turtle seemed to know the volcano was set to erupt


(Getty Images)

Jennifer Gilbert, of the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Center (CTRC), told IFL Science : “I’m going to do an observational paper.

“There has been nothing done on turtles and seismic detection previously.

“I don’t think you could use turtles as a prediction device. You can’t tell a turtle where to go, or even predict what they will do. They have a mind of their own.”

Tilly later repeated her trick when, as she swam towards the Great Barrier Reef, she changed her path once more before a small earthquake shook north Queensland.

Tilly has swam more than 2,000 miles since being released into the sea


Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef)

Jennifer added previous studies have been published on the abilities of whales, dolphins and seals to detect potential seismic activity – but not turtles.

Tilly had spent her first few years at the center after volunteers checking a turtle nest found her as a hatchling close to death after failing to escape from where their eggs were buried.

Sammy’s tracker went offline after just 10 days.

But Tilly’s shows she has swam more than 2,000 miles in 78 days.

The volcano’s eruption caused devastation on Tonga, killing at least three people


NASA/NOAA/AFP via Getty Images)

Satellite images in the wake of the eruption showed a three-mile-wide plume of ash, steam and gas rising about 12 miles into the air.

The underwater blast sparked a tsunami, leaving at least three people dead and homes across the country damaged.

It was heard thousands of kilometers away and sparked warnings in New Zealand, Fiji, American Samoa and Australia.

Waves reaching up to 15 meters hit the outer Ha’apia island group, destroying all of the houses on the island of Mango, as well as the west coast of Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu.

A 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck Tonga just two weeks after the huge volcanic eruption.

The United States Geological Survey recorded the tremor at a depth of 14.5km around 136 miles west-northwest of the village of Pangai, in Tonga’s Ha’apai islands.

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