Hakai Magazine

Coastal science and societies

Goodbye, Pumice Island

A Greek islet meets its end to make ends meet.

Authored by

by Nikolia Apostolou

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A very long time ago, people on the Greek island of Nisyros routinely crossed the water to a nearby islet called Gyali. These ancient people would head for the island’s northeastern section, where they would mine chunks of obsidian, volcanic glass from which they created sharp tools. The people of Nisyros also traded this prized resource of the distant past with their neighbors.

Today, attention has shifted to the southwest of Gyali, which is blanketed in another kind of rock—pumice stone. Pumice is a prized resource in recent times for its use in the construction industry. It’s mined with bulldozers and other heavy equipment.

Just as in ancient times, Gyali gives the people of Nisyros an economic advantage. Pumice mining has kept the community financially flush, compared with much of Greece, which has been ailing economically since 2008.

The cost to the environment, however, is great.