Scientists First Went Unobserved About The World's Largest Underwater Volcano Eruption

(Rebecca Carey, University of Tasmania/Adam Soule, WHOI)
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(Rebecca Carey, University of Tasmania/Adam Soule, WHOI)

Highlights

  • Scientists identified the odd ocean flow as a raft of floating rock spewed from an undersea volcano in the greatest eruption of its sort ever recorded after the Kiwi passenger texted images of it to them.
  • Scientists first went unobserved by the catastrophe, which was caused by an undersea volcano known as the Havre Seamount

A suspicious huge lump was witnessed drifting in the ocean hundreds of kilometres off New Zealand's north coast. Scientists identified the odd ocean flow as a raft of floating rock spewed from an undersea volcano in the greatest eruption of its sort ever recorded after the Kiwi passenger texted images of it to them.

Volcanologist Rebecca Carey from the University of Tasmania said that it was a large-scale eruption, about comparable to the largest eruption on land in the twentieth century. Volcanologist who co-led the first in-depth analysis of the historic 2012 eruption, eventually publishing the findings in a paper with colleagues in 2018. Scientists first went unobserved by the catastrophe, which was caused by an undersea volcano known as the Havre Seamount, but the floating rock platform it created was more difficult to overlook.

According to satellites, the raft, which was made of pumice, a light, air-filled volcanic rock, spanned 400 square kilometres of the south-west Pacific Ocean in 2012, but it dispersed across an area double the size of New Zealand months later. While scientists investigated the site in 2015, at depths as low as 1,220 metres, the sheer size of the rocky debris astounded them 4,000 feet.

High-resolution seafloor topography of the Havre caldera (Rebecca Carey, University of Tasmania/Adam Soule, WHOI)


The analysis, which used the AUV Sentry and the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason, revealed that the eruption of Havre Seamount was more complicated than anyone on the surface ever realised. As per the researchers, three-quarters or more of the debris ejected floated to the surface and drifted away, with tonnes landing up on shorelines thousands of miles away.

The caldera, which spans roughly 4.5 kilometres, released lava from 14 vents in a massive breach of the volcanic edifice, resulting in pumice rock, ash, lava domes, and seafloor lava flows in addition to pumice rock. It may have been buried under an ocean of water, but it was around 1.5 times the size of Mount St. Helens' 1980 eruption or 10 times the size of Iceland's 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption. The rest was strewn around the adjacent seafloor, wreaking havoc on the biological populations that called it home and are only now beginning to recover.

Meanwhile, the study that happens when a volcano erupts beneath the sea, a phenomenon that actually accounts for more than 70% of all volcanism on Earth, even if it's a little harder to spot, with samples collected by the submersibles yielding what the scientists say could amount to a decade's worth of research.

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