Oceanographers image the discovery of the deepest explosive eruption on the sea floor (w/ Video)

Dec 17, 2009
The Jason remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) samples fluid at an eruptive area near the summit of the West Mata Volcano, May 2009. The fluid sampling “wand” is approximately three feet long. (Image courtesy of NSF, NOAA, and WHOI Advanced Imaging and Visualization Lab)

Oceanographers using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason discovered and recorded the first video and still images of a deep-sea volcano actively erupting molten lava on the seafloor.

Jason, designed and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for the National Deep Submergence Facility, utilized a prototype, high-definition still and video camera to capture the powerful event nearly 4,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, in an area bounded by Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

"I felt immense satisfaction at being able to bring [the science team] the virtual presence that Jason provides," says Jason expedition leader Albert Collasius, who remotely piloted the ROV over the seafloor. "There were fifteen exuberant scientists in the control van who all felt like they hit a home run. "

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

"In terms of understanding how the volcano is erupting, the high frame rate lets you stop the motion and look to see what is happening," said Resing. "You can see the processes better."

The National Science Foundation funded the installation of the camera system for this expedition. The system is being tested in advance of a permanent upgrade in 2010 to the cameras on Jason as well as the manned submersible Alvin. Maryann Keith, of WHOI's AIVL, Shank, and other scientists operated the camera system with the assistance of the Jason team during the expedition.

In addition to the benefits to science, the cameras will serve the added purpose of giving the public more access to seafloor discoveries.

"Seeing an eruption in high definition video for the first time really brings it home for all of us, when we can see for ourselves the very exciting things happening on our planet, that we know so little about," Embley said.

Explore further: Scientists make strides in tsunami warning since 2004

Provided by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

4.9 /5 (9 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New Deep-Sea Hybrid Vehicle Gets a Mythical Name

Jun 27, 2006

Nereus, a mythical god with the torso of a man and the tail of a fish, was chosen June 25 as the name of a new deep-sea vehicle under construction at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

Scientists search for seafloor eruption

Mar 09, 2005

The most intense swarms of earthquakes detected in the last 10 to 12 years on the far edge of the Juan de Fuca plate could indicate the eruption of magma from the seafloor or an underwater volcano. Between 50 and 70 earthquakes ...

ROV discovers Antarctic seafloor fauna

Jan 18, 2007

Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) remain an efficient technology to uncover the secrets of Antarctic seafloor fauna. As a precursor to the International Polar Year 2007/2008, the current Polarstern expedition ...

Recommended for you

Scientists make strides in tsunami warning since 2004

14 hours ago

The 2004 tsunami led to greater global cooperation and improved techniques for detecting waves that could reach faraway shores, even though scientists still cannot predict when an earthquake will strike.

Trade winds ventilate the tropical oceans

15 hours ago

Long-term observations indicate that the oxygen minimum zones in the tropical oceans have expanded in recent decades. The reason is still unknown. Now scientists at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sancho
not rated yet Dec 18, 2009
How much ocean heating is caused by undersea volcanism? Is it accounted for in climate change models? Does this phenomenon play a role in the periodic melting of Arctic ice? Inquiring minds want to know!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.