Deep Sea Volcano Hot Spot For Mysterious Ocean Life

GEOLOGIST SEAMOUNTS, Hawaii – The turquoise waters became darker and darker, and squiggly glow-in-dark marine creatures began to glide past in the inky depths like ghosts.


The three-man submarine went down, down, down into the abyss and drew within sight of something no human had ever laid eyes on: Cook seamount, a 13,000-foot extinct volcano at the bottom of the sea.

Scientists aboard the vessel Pisces V visited the volcano earlier this month to examine its geological features and its rich variety of marine life, and an Associated Press reporter was given exclusive access to the dive. It was the first-ever expedition to the Cook seamount by a manned submersible.

Among other things, the researchers from the University of Hawaii and the nonprofit group Conservation International spotted such wonders as a rare type of octopus with big fins that look like Dumbo’s ears, and a potentially new species of violet-hued coral they dubbed Purple Haze.

Conservation International hopes to study 50 seamounts, or undersea volcanoes, over the next five years.

“We don’t know anything about the ocean floor,” said Peter Seligmann, chairman, CEO and co-founder of Conservation International. “What we know is that each one of those seamounts is a refuge for new species, but we don’t know what they are. We don’t know how they’ve evolved. We don’t know what lessons they have for us.”

During the Sept. 6 dive, the submarine splashed into the water, and as it dove, the only sounds were radio communications from the surface, the hum of an air scrubber that removes carbon monoxide from the passenger chamber, and the voices of the crew. The thick, hot tropical air inside the steel sphere became cooler and drier as the submarine descended.

“We don’t know what we’re going to find,” said Conservation International’s Greg Stone, a marine biologist on board. “There will always be the unexpected when you go into the deep ocean.”

Halfway to the volcano’s summit, which is 3,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific, no sunlight penetrated. The only light that could be seen from the submarine’s face-sized windows was the bluish glow of the vessel’s own bright lights. Occasionally, bioluminescent creatures drifted past in the darkness.

Stone and subpilot Terry Kerby, who helps run the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory at the University of Hawaii, watched as the volcano and its rugged basalt walls hundreds of yards high came into view.

Seamounts are either active or dormant volcanoes that rise dramatically from the bottom of the ocean and never reach the surface. They are hotspots for marine life because they carry nutrient-rich water upward from the sea floor. Seamounts are believed to cover about 18 million square miles of the planet.

Cook, situated over 100 miles southwest of Hawaii’s Big Island, is part of a group of undersea volcanoes known as the Geologist Seamounts that are about 80 million years old and could hold many new animal species, as well as elements such as nickel and cobalt that mining companies could extract.

“My goal today is to … find out what’s living on them, find out how they support ocean life, what their effect is from ocean currents and essentially what drives the ocean, what makes the ocean what it is,” Stone said. “Seamounts are a key part of that, and something which humanity knows very little about.”

Within minutes of the vessel’s arrival at the summit, life began to appear — a starfish clinging to a rock, joined shortly after by eels, sharks, chimaera (also known as “ghost sharks”), shrimp, crabs and two rare Dumbo octopuses. One of the octopuses changed color from white to pink to reddish brown as it swam by.

Several types of deep-sea corals were found along the seamount’s cliffs, including a vibrant purple one.

“I need to go home, look through the literature … and also go and run some genetic analyses,” said Sonia Rowley, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii who is taking part in the project. “But as this is a new seamount … that no one had dived on before, it won’t be any surprise to me whether this is going to be a new species.”

Two other seamounts were studied over three days of expeditions: McCall, home to a large number of small deep-sea sharks, and Lo’ihi, an active volcano.

Lo’Ihi has been extensively surveyed by manned submersibles over the past 30 years. The past few times Kerby was there, he saw a large Pacific sleeper shark lurking about the volcano’s crater.

As hot vents shot out volcanic gases around them, the team released bait in the water and the 7-foot shark appeared in front of the submarine. Kerby was delighted to see his “old friend.”

The team also saw 6-foot eels and a number of new geological formations around the crater. Scientists say Lo’ihi is likely to someday become the newest island in the Hawaii chain as volcanic activity pushes the summit upward.

Japan’s Sakurajima Volcano Due For Major Eruption Within 30 Years, Say Scientists

One of Japan’s most active volcanoes is due for a major eruption within the next 30 years, say scientists who have studied a build-up of magma there.


The Sakurajima volcano on Japan’s Kyushu island poses a “growing threat”, researchers at the University of Bristol say.

The volcano, located 49km (30 miles) from the Sendai nuclear plant, is also close to Kagoshima, a city of 600,000.
Sakurajima’s last deadly eruption was in 1914, when 58 people died.

The Japanese archipelago, which sits on the Pacific “Ring of fire”, has more than 100 volcanoes. Sakurajima regularly spews ash and there are many small explosions there each year, with the latest eruption being in February.

It is closely monitored by Japanese authorities and one of two volcanoes at Level 3 out of 5 levels in Japan’s volcanic warning system, which means that people are warned not to to approach the volcano.

“The 1914 eruption measured about 1.5km cubed in volume,” said the study’s lead author Dr James Hickey, who has now joined the University of Exeter’s Camborne School of Mines.

“From our data we think it would take around 130 years for the volcano to store the same amount of magma for another eruption of a similar size – meaning we are around 25 years away.”

A report on the activity of the volcano was published on Tuesday and teams from Bristol University and the Sakurajima Volcano Research Centre took part

Their research showed that 14 million cubic metres of magma is accumulating each year, enough to fill London’s Wembley Stadium 3.5 times over.

They added that the rate at which the magma is accumulating is faster than it can be expelled in its regular smaller eruptions, which led them to infer that a major eruption is likely in the next 30 years.

They made these assessments based on new ways of studying and modelling the volcano’s magma reservoir. Scientists say they hope these findings can help authorities plan for major eruptions.

“We know that being forewarned means we are forearmed and providing essential information for local authorities can potentially help save lives if an eruption was imminent,” said Dr Hickey.

According to an associate professor at Kyoto University, new evacuation plans have already been prepared.

“It is already passed by 100 years since the 1914 eruption, less than 30 years is left until a next expected big eruption,” said Dr Haruhisa Nakamichi, Associate Professor at the Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University.

“Kagoshima city office has prepared a new evacuation plan from Sakurajima.”

Turrialba Volcano Spews Ash, Vapor

Following an increase in seismic activity, Turrialba Volcano began spewing ash, vapor and gases at 2 a.m. on Tuesday, experts from the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and the National University (UNA) confirmed.


Activity at Turrialba, located in Cartago province 60 kilometers northeast of the capital San José, resumed Monday night with an increase in volcanic tremors, according to a report from UNA’s Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI).

The report adds that the ash plume from the explosion reached approximately 300 meters (985 feet) above the volcano’s crater.

Mauricio Mora, a volcanologist with UCR’s National Seismological Network (RSN), said windy conditions in the morning dispersed the ash plume towards the west and northwestern areas of the Central Valley. Ashes mainly reached sectors in northeastern San José, and certain areas in Alajuela and Heredia provinces.

People posting on both OVSICORI’s and UNA’s Facebook pages reported smelling sulfur and seeing ash on the ground in communities north and east of the capital including Coronado, Moravia, Guadalupe, Tibás and Montes de Oca.

Tuesday morning’s activity, however, was not as strong as that recorded earlier this year, when ash plumes exceeded 3,000 meters (9,800 ft.) above the volcano.

The new explosion followed 43 days of low activity, after the last important explosion recorded on August 1.

Turrialba is one of Costa Rica’s five active volcanoes along with Arenal, Poás, Irazú, and Rincón de la Vieja.

Aid for farmers

President Luis Guillermo Solís toured communities north and east of Cartago on Monday and announced the allocation of ₡2,4 billion ($4.3 million) for the province, including aid for farmers and ranchers whose production has been negatively affected by volcanic activity and drought in recent years.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, Cartago farmers are the country’s top potato producers, supplying 80 percent of all potatoes consumed in Costa Rica. They are also the largest producers of onions and large suppliers of carrots, yucca, cabbages, beets, flowers and other crops.

Lava Lake Visible Atop Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano

The U.S. Geological Survey says a lake of lava has come into view atop Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, and a burst of seismic activity has shaken the summit in recent days.


It’s the first time the lava lake has been visible since May 2015. It deflated Saturday, but it was expected to inflate again Sunday.
At least one earthquake was felt along with several smaller events, according to the Geological Survey.

Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. A current lava flow into the Pacific Ocean has drawn thousands of visitors from around the world to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Alert Heightened For Vanuatu Volcano

Vanuatu authorities have upgraded warnings around Ambae Volcano in northern Vanuatu.


The country’s Geohazards Observatory has raised the alert to Level two on a scale of one to five which signifies the volcano is in a stage of major unrest.

The observatory says volcanic activity could increase at any time over the next few days.

It’s warned the local community, tourists and travel agencies to stay well away from the Manaro crater lakes to avoid the effects of volcanic gas, ash and other volcanic activity.

The Department of Meteorology and Geohazards is closely monitoring the volcano which last erupted in 2009.

Australian Scientists Uncover Evidence Of Super Eruptions 106 Million Years Ago

Australian scientists believe a super volcano active over 100 million years ago was so powerful it spewed tiny crystals across the breadth of the continent.


It was not exactly the intended area of inquiry for researchers at Curtin University’s School of Mines but they recently stumbled upon the rather fascinating finding nonetheless.

Dr Milo Barham from the Department of Applied Geology led the study, which originally sought to examine the geology of the Nullarbor Plain in remote southeastern WA in order to study how the southern margin of the country evolved after separating from Antarctica.

However once they made the discovery of zircon crystals unlike any previously found in Western Australia, the research took a slightly new direction.

“It was somewhat fortuitous I suppose,” Dr Barham told

Researchers pulled up a vast amount of core material from the drilling to examine the sediment and study certain fossils. They also took a sample of earth to look at zircon crystal and study their chemistry and age to see what sort of rocks the crystals had been eroded from, Dr Barham recalled.

“And then suddenly there were these crystals that didn’t match any thing we know exists in Western Australia and we looked into it more carefully and we see that the chemistry and age match perfectly for what we’d expect for this volcanic region in eastern Australia.”

Using advanced geochemical fingerprinting of individual crystals as well as in-depth analysis of the sediments and their fossils, scientists were able to determine the crystals were the product of volcanic air fall — despite being 2300km from their original source on the other side of the country.

By looking at the age of the material and aspects of their chemistry “we could tell for definite that it came across from the volcanoes on the east coast”, Dr Barham said.

The findings from the dig point to the occurrence of super-eruptions over 100 million years ago.

According to the researchers at Curtin University, such explosive events would have had magnitudes tens to hundreds of times greater than anything in documented human history.

“Such distal projection of a unique volcanic mineral population demonstrates that super-eruptions were occurring in eastern Australia approximately 106 million years ago, during the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana,” Dr Barham said.

We know about super eruptions in the more recent past. In the last few tens of thousands of years, or maybe a couple million years, he said.

“But trying to go back further to prove these super eruptions is really difficult because it’s very difficult to prove,” he added, because much of the geology from the time has been eroded away.

But given the use of the sophisticated fingerprinting technology, the team is highly confident about their conclusions.

Dr Barham says the findings, which were published in the journal Geology, shine a light on just how violent and volcanic the region was such a long time ago.

These massive eruptions “were not enough to cause any mass extinctions or anything like that but animals would’ve died as a result,” he said.

“It tells us about how violent the east coast of Australia would’ve been at that time.”

Mexico’s Popocatépetl Volcano Erupts 4 Times In Under 24 Hours

MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s National Center for Disaster Prevention said the Popocatépetl volcano has erupted multiple times, spewing ash and burning rocks into the air.


The disaster prevention center, or CENAPRED, Monday afternoon said Popocatépetl erupted four times in the previous 24 hours, had 73 volcanic plumes and had two volcano tectonic earthquakes — measuring in magnitudes 1.2 and 1.6, respectively.

Popocatépetl is about 43 miles southeast of Mexico City.

CENAPRED in March raised the environmental alert level to the second degree out of three, meaning nearby residents should be prepared to evacuate.

“The CENAPRED urges you not to approach the volcano, especially the crater, due to the danger of falling ballistic fragments,” CENAPRED said in a statement.