Science-- there's something for everyone

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Deep Sea Volcano Eruption

Scientists are studying the deepest erupting volcano ever discovered, West Mata Volcano, located 4000 feet down in the Pacific Ocean, in an area bounded by Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.
The volcano was discovered and recorded using ‘Jason’, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) piloted by Albert Collasius. Using a joystick, he moved Jason to within 10 feet of the eruption where the ROV’s robotic arms could collect rock, water, and biological specimens.
Unexpectedly, the West Mata Volcano is producing boninite lava.  This type of lava has only been seen in extinct volcanoes, never before in active ones. It is extremely hot, and the surrounding water is as acidic as battery acid or stomach acid.
Nevertheless, diverse microbes and a type of shrimp were found in the vent water.  Genetic tests are underway to determine whether these shrimp are the same species as the specimens collected from seamounts 3,000 miles away.
Because geologists believe that most volcanic activity occurs in the deep ocean, they were very keen to observe a deep sea eruption.  Until now, they haven’t been able to catch an eruption in the act. 
They hope this new data will provide a better understanding of how the Earth’s crust is recycled and formed on the sea floor.

For more photos, look here.