Kenneth Setzer

Ocean Rocks Part Two — Ball’s Pyramid

Nearly a year ago I wrote about Rockall, an odd lump sticking out of the North Atlantic. I’m finally getting around to another ocean rock. What’s the hurry?

2.Ball’s Pyramid

Ball's Pyramid From Above. Source: Google Earth

Ball’s Pyramid From Above. Source: Google Earth

Want to drive a travel agent insane? Tell one to get you to Ball’s Pyramid, at all costs! Ball’s Pyramid is what remains of a collapsed volcano. Jutting out of the Pacific Ocean like a knife point, it reaches 1,844 feet. The summit was only reached by climbers in 1965, and no wonder — just look at it! Ball’s Pyramid is a part of the Lord Howe Island group out in the open ocean off the east coast of Australia. It turns out this area has all kinds of interesting things happening geographically, including disappearing islands.

Where's Ball's Pyramid? Source: http://australianmuseum.net

Where’s Ball’s Pyramid? Source: http://australianmuseum.net

Imagine being adrift, praying for landfall, and you are washed up against this?! Not washed upon its shores — because it doesn’t have shores exactly, just walls. For me, the most fascinating part of Ball’s Pyramid is the refuge it provided for a special creature called the Lord Howe stick insect (Dryococelus australis). Believed extinct for over 70 years from nearby Lord Howe Island, a population was discovered in 2001 clinging to life (and to the cliffs) under a bush on Ball’s Pyramid. Known as the Lazarus effect (being raised from the dead, so to speak), the re-discovery of a species thought extinct is of course not unique to the stick insect; the subject would make a great book — a species per chapter maybe.

Looking like land lobsters or walking hot dogs, these are probably the rarest insects on Earth. No one knows how they managed to cross miles of ocean to Ball’s Pyramid, but whatever bird that carried one or piece of flotsam one of the critters rode saved this flightless species — for now.

Lord Howe Island stick insect
Next up: Bouvet Island

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