Chinese scientists on Monday started to explore a seamount named Caroline in the west of the Pacific Ocean for the first time, as a remote operated vehicle (ROV) dived to collect videos, information and samples.
As part of the Caroline Ridge in the Pacific Ocean, the Caroline seamount is located in the south of the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on the Earth, and in the east of the Yap Trench, and it has never been explored.
The seamount is about 75 square km, five times larger than it appears in sea chart. Its top, an oval basin, is 28 meters below the sea surface, according to the statistic that the KEXUE (Science) scientific ship collected in the last two days.
The ROV will investigate the south side of the seamount to take videos and collect topographic information and biological samples, said Xu Kuidong, chief scientist aboard the ship and a researcher of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
"We see many sea gulls and flying fishes in this area, so we believe that this seamount is rich in biological diversities." Xu said.
Before this scientific voyage, Chinese scientists have investigated the other two seamounts in this area, and they will compare three seamounts in geology, biology and ecology.
"The distance between the two seamounts we investigated before is only 180 kilometers, but they have only 12 percent common biology," Xu said. "It's very interesting to find out what the Caroline has, the differences of the three seamounts and the reasons."
A seamount is a mountain rising from the ocean seafloor that does not reach the water's surface, and thus is not an island, islet or cliff-rock. Seamounts are typically formed from extinct volcanoes that rise abruptly and are usually found rising from the seafloor to 1,000-4,000 meters in height.
Interactions between seamounts and underwater currents, as well as their elevated position in the water, attract plankton, corals, fish, and marine mammals alike.
More than 30,000 seamounts have been mapped on the Earth, but only a few have been studied in detail by scientists.