One of those fantastic trivia questions that I love to tote around with me is asking people what is the tallest peak on the planet Earth. It is theoretically a simple question, but isn’t it; the answer is Mt. Everest. Some of you may know the answer to that question is actually not Mt. Everest, but in fact Mauna Kea, which is the tallest mountain when measured from base to summit.
That Mauna Kea has about 19,000 feet (5,800 m) beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean means that any time something else is found underneath the ocean’s surface, my curiosity is naturally piqued.
Another of the underwater trivia questions is naming the deepest point on the planet’s surface; the Mariana Trench. In the same area however, University of Texas at Dallas Dr. Robert J. Stern and former master’s student Neil Basu have recently discovered a dormant volcano.
Discovered near the southern Mariana Islands, the volcano lies more than 300 meters below the surface. A large caldera, it is comparable in size to the more common place examples of Krakatoa in Indonesia and Crater Lake, America.
“We knew there was submarine volcano there since the early 1980s, but we didn't know that it had a huge caldera,” Stern said. “It was really exciting to explore the caldera walls with modern ROV technology.”
Dating techniques showed that the volcano began forming more than 300,000 years ago, and that the eruption that formed the caldera occurred between 37,000 and 51,000 years ago.
The pair were involved with US and Japanese scientists on board three research cruises that studied the volcano between 2001 and 2005. Using shipboard sonar mapping techniques, the crew mapped the volcano and used seafloor robots known as ROV’s to examine up close, and take samples, from the ocean floor.
The results of the discovery were recently published in an edition of the scientific journal The Island Arc.
Posted by Josh Hill.