Geoscientist Finds Surprise Hidden in the Pacific

January 15, 2008

UT Dallas geoscientist Dr. Robert J. Stern and former master’s student Neil Basu were part of a research team that discovered and studied an extinct underwater volcano near the southern Mariana islands, near Guam, in the western Pacific Ocean.

The volcano lies more than 300 meters below the ocean surface and contains a large volcanic depression, or caldera, that is comparable in size to better-known examples Krakatoa (Indonesia) and Crater Lake, Ore.

It was named “West Rota Volcano” because of its proximity to the island of Rota in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The results of the research were published in a recent edition of the scientific journal The Island Arc.

“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.”

Datings techniques indicate that the volcano began growing more than 300,000 years ago and that the climactic, caldera-forming eruption occurred 37,000-51,000 years ago.

Stern and Basu, now with Pioneer NRC, worked with US and Japanese scientists during three research cruises aboard U.S. and Japanese research vessels that studied the volcano between 2001 and 2005.

The research team used modern shipboard sonar swath-mapping techniques to map the volcano and tethered seafloor robots known as ROVs to examine and sample the volcano.

The research team also discovered significant mineralization in the caldera walls.

“Finding the massive sulfide deposits was an added bonus,” Stern said.

Source: University of Texas at Dallas

Explore further: Mars volcano, Earth's dinosaurs went extinct about the same time

Related Stories

How a young-looking lunar volcano hides its true age

March 28, 2017

While orbiting the Moon in 1971, the crew of Apollo 15 photographed a strange geological feature—a bumpy, D-shaped depression about two miles long and a mile wide—that has fascinated planetary scientists ever since. Some ...

Does Pluto have the ingredients for life?

February 23, 2017

Pluto has long been viewed as a distant, cold and mostly dead world, but the first spacecraft to pass by it last year revealed many surprises about this distant dwarf planet.

Recommended for you

Sub-zero waters a barrier to oil spill recovery

May 24, 2017

Sub-zero temperatures in the deep waters of the North Atlantic would significantly hamper the ability of oil-eating bacteria to help the ocean recover from a major oil spill, according to new research.

0 comments

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.