Scientists witness lava flows deep in the Pacific

SAN FRANCISCO — Scientists have witnessed the eruption of the deepest submarine volcano ever discovered, capturing for the first time video of fiery bubbles of molten lava as they exploded 1,200 metres beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

In this image taken from a May

SAN FRANCISCO — Scientists have witnessed the eruption of the deepest submarine volcano ever discovered, capturing for the first time video of fiery bubbles of molten lava as they exploded 1,200 metres beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

Researchers are calling it a major geological discovery.

A submersible robot witnessed the eruption during an underwater expedition in May near Samoa.

The high-definition videos were presented Thursday at a geophysics conference in San Francisco.

Scientists hope the images, data and samples obtained during the mission will shed new light on how the ocean’s crust was formed, how some sea creatures survive and thrive in an extreme environment and how the earth behaves when tectonic plates ram into each other.

“It was an underwater Fourth of July,” said Bob Embley, a marine geologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Since the water pressure at that depth suppresses the violence of the volcano’s explosions, we could get the underwater robot within feet of the active eruption.”

The eruption was a spectacular sight: Bright-red magma bubbles shot up releasing a smoke-like cloud of sulfur, then froze almost instantly as they hit the cold sea water, causing black rock to sink to the to the sea floor. The submersible hovered near the blasts, its robotic arm reaching into the lava to collect samples.

Earth and ocean scientists also said the eruption allowed them to see for the first time the real-time creation of a material called boninite, which had previously been found only in samples a million or more years old.

Witnessing this deep-sea volcanic eruption was 25 years in the making. Researchers from NOAA and the National Science Foundation had studied deep-sea volcanoes extensively but never witnessed an eruption this deep and in this detail. Eighty per cent of the earth’s volcanic activity occurs in the sea, but their underwater locations have complicated scientific efforts.

The mission’s chief scientist, Joseph Resing, last year detected volcanic material in the water in the area, and realized it was erupting. In May, the researchers travelled to area and sunk the submersible robot, called Jason, hoping to make scientific history.

“When we got there, we put the sub down and within in an hour and a half we found an eruption there in its full glory,” said Resing, who is a chemical oceanographer at the University of Washington. “We haven’t seen this before and now for the very first time we see molten lava flowing on the sea floor.”

Scientists said the water around the volcano was more acidic than battery acid, but that shrimp and certain microbes were able to thrive in such a harsh environment. Biologists were also excited about a new opportunity to study these creatures to see if they are unique to this volcanic environment.

Just Posted

N.S. senior whose birthday card request drew international response dies

SYDNEY, N.S. — A Nova Scotia widower who received thousands of birthday… Continue reading

Freedom of expression or personal attack? Nurse appeals fine for Facebook post

REGINA — Saskatchewan’s highest court is to decide what’s next for a… Continue reading

RCMP commissioner says info in FBI probe led to arrest of intelligence director

OTTAWA — An RCMP employee charged with trying to disclose secret information… Continue reading

NDP’s Singh seeks urban support with housing billions, avoids deficit questions

OTTAWA — Jagmeet Singh continued his push to win progressive votes on… Continue reading

B.C. won’t use court ruling as tactic in pipeline battle: environment minister

VANCOUVER — Environment Minister George Heyman says British Columbia can’t stop the… Continue reading

WATCH: 2019 Canada Winter Games will leave a lasting legacy, say organizers

It leaves Red Deer with the infrastructure and confidence to host future such events

Your community calendar

Wednesday Central Alberta Historical Society annual general meeting is 6 p.m. at… Continue reading

N.S. senior whose birthday card request drew international response dies

SYDNEY, N.S. — A Nova Scotia widower who received thousands of birthday… Continue reading

Freedom of expression or personal attack? Nurse appeals fine for Facebook post

REGINA — Saskatchewan’s highest court is to decide what’s next for a… Continue reading

RCMP commissioner says info in FBI probe led to arrest of intelligence director

OTTAWA — An RCMP employee charged with trying to disclose secret information… Continue reading

NDP’s Singh seeks urban support with housing billions, avoids deficit questions

OTTAWA — Jagmeet Singh continued his push to win progressive votes on… Continue reading

B.C. won’t use court ruling as tactic in pipeline battle: environment minister

VANCOUVER — Environment Minister George Heyman says British Columbia can’t stop the… Continue reading

Parties spar over what is best for parental benefits

OTTAWA — Is it better to be paid in credit or with… Continue reading

Alberta spends $3M for 30 nurse practitioners for remote, specialized areas

Province spends $3M for 30 nurse practitioners for remote, specialized areas EDMONTON… Continue reading

Most Read