Icy Underwater Volcanoes Uncovered Near Antartica

A chain of massive underwater volcanoes – some of the peaks recently active and towering nearly 10,000 feet above the ocean floor – has been discovered beneath the frigid seas near Antarctica, the first such discovery in that region.

Using sea-floor mapping technology during research cruises, a British Antarctic Survey team led by vulcanologist Philip Leat, uncovered the 12 ice-covered peaks south of the remote Sandwich Islands – a group of rugged Hawaiian islands discovered by Captain James Cook during one of his voyages in the 1770s.

While active volcanic peaks had been noted and even written about by Cook himself, Leat explained the seafloor was completely unknown, having never been surveyed till this 2011 discovery.

“We knew there were other volcanoes in the area, but we didn’t go trying to find volcanoes,” Leat told OurAmazingPlanet. “We just went because there was a big blank area on the map and we had no idea what was there; we just wanted to fill in the seafloor.”

Though the peaks are largely invisible without the aid of 3-D mapping technology, the researcher explained that their cone-like silhouette is a dead giveaway for a volcano.

Researchers say the findings, which also yielded rocky material from the peaks rife with volcanic ash, lumps of pumice and black lava, are important for understanding what happens when volcanoes erupt or collapse under water and their potential for creating serious 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.”

via UPI

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