Scientists discover underwater volcanoes in the Southern Ocean

07/11/2011 21:24

WebUpdate:  LONDON (BNO NEWS) -- A group of scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has discovered a dozen underwater volcanoes in the ocean waters around the remote South Sandwich Islands, which is a British overseas territory.

The scientists made the discovery using ship-borne sea-floor mapping technology during two research cruises in 2007 and 2010 on the British Antarctic Survey ship RRS James Clark Ross. Their discovery in the Southern Ocean was not announced until Monday.

The scientists found a total of twelve volcanoes beneath the sea surface - some up to 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) high. They found five kilometers (3.1 miles) diameter craters left by collapsing volcanoes and seven active volcanoes visible above the sea as a chain of islands.

"There is so much that we don't understand about volcanic activity beneath the sea - it's likely that volcanoes are erupting or collapsing all the time," said Dr. Phil Leat of BAS at the International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Sciences. The discovery could lead to a better understanding about why volcanoes erupt or collapse underwater and what their potential is for creating hazards such as tsunamis.

"The technologies that scientists can now use from ships not only give us an opportunity to piece together the story of the evolution of our Earth, but they also help shed new light on the development of natural events that pose hazards for people living in more populated regions on the planet," Leat added.

Not a lot is known about underwater volcanoes, and it is unclear how many exist. The Kolumbo submarine volcano in the Aegean Sea erupted in 1650, sending pyroclastic flows across the sea surface to the shores and slopes of Santorini, a nearby Greek island. It left some 70 people killed and also triggered a tsunami that damaged islands in the region.


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