Oceanic islands, specks, some barely visible across expansive seas; conjured images of a tropical paradise – the overstated tourist brochure or the understated Gauguin portrait. The images are iconic. And they are home to tens of millions of people. Not stated in all the hype is their fragility – a fragility borne of all the processes which shape oceanic islands; geological, biological, climate and perhaps anthropological. We have been reminded of their fragility by recent evidence that some islands are at risk of disappearing beneath the waves. Media reports of their demise tend to focus on rising global sea levels caused by climate change. However, it is important to consider an island’s state in the context of all the natural processes that led to its formation, because its ultimate fate, from a geological perspective, is to founder.