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Researchers discover underwater volcano

Editor : See pictures of "Eel city" and 3D reconstruction of the volcano on their webpage.

A team of scientists, led by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, has discovered an active underwater volcano near the Samoan Island chain.

During a research cruise to study the Samoan hot spot, scientists uncovered a submarine volcano growing in the summit crater of another larger underwater volcano, Vailulu'u. Researchers explored the unique biological community surrounding the eruption site, and were amazed to find an "Eel City," a community of hundreds of slithering eels.

This new volcano, dubbed Nafanua after the ferocious Samoan goddess of war, did not exist just fours years ago, according to co-chief scientists Hubert Staudigel, a geologist at Scripps's Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, and Stan Hart, a geochemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. With a growth rate of at least eight inches per day, the volcanic cone has rapidly emerged since the scientists' last expedition to this area in May 2001. Nafanua now stands at 300 meters, or nearly 1,000 feet.

"To actually have a documented case of an underwater volcano that has emerged within an accurate period of time is very rare--this is one of those cases," said Staudigel.

Scientists were tipped off to the volcano's existence when they profiled the seafloor of the Vailulu'u crater using multibeam mapping. Existing maps of the seafloor in the area gave little indication that this volcano existed. When sound beams were directed into the crater this time, they measured an unusually shallow depth. These interesting results prompted further investigation of the area using the manned submersible Pisces V-a seven-foot sphere that has the capability to dive to depths of more than 6,000 feet, operated by NOAA's Hawaii Undersea
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Source:University of California - San Diego


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