Deep-Sea Eruption, Odd Animals Seen

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May 7, 2009—Scientists have caught a fast-growing, 12-story underwater volcano erupting—along with odd creatures evolved to survive its toxic emissions.

© 2009 National Geographic; Video © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Unedited Transcription

Scientists, witnessing and videotaping for the first time the eruption of an undersea volcano in the Pacific Ocean in the Northern Mariana Islands near Guam.

(onscreen: Video: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The researchers, using the remotely operated vehicle, Jason, recorded the video in April, and sampled the eruption plume with an intake in one of its manipulator arms.

The deep-sea volcano, called NW Rota-1, was first observed erupting in 2004. Its been continuously spewing lava and highly acidic molten sulfur.

(Whoaall the rocks in front of us just moved Oh! Theres another one)

The science team, led by Bill Chadwick of Oregon State University, reports the volcano has been growing considerably in the last three years.

Chadwick says the volcano has expanded 131 feet in height and nearly a thousand feed in widthabout as tall as a 12-story building and as wide as a city block.

The scientists also observed marine life adapting to the harsh conditions near the eruptions. Two unique species of shrimp were seen: the smaller shrimp, also known to live on an active undersea volcano near Hawaii, graze bacterial filaments coating the rocks; the larger shrimp, never before observed, is carnivorous and preys on the smaller shrimp and other fish that die in the volcanic plume.

NW Rota-1 is about 1,700 feet below sea level, and the pressure of the ocean keeps the energy released from the volcano from becoming too explosive, allowing the remote vehicle, Jason, to get close.

The expedition was largely funded by the National Science Foundation.

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