Secrets of largest volcanic eruption in ocean uncovered in world's 1st study

Updated 2018-01-11 14:31:01 Xinhua

A University of Tasmania-led study has unlocked the secrets of the largest ever volcanic eruption in the ocean on Thursday, after successfully mapping the remote location with submersible vehicles.

Located 1,000 km off the North Island of New Zealand, the Havre Volcano was first discovered in 2002 and in 2012, it drew the eye of scientists when over 400 square km of solidified volcanic rock, known as pumice raft, was detected by satellite.

"When this rock was produced by the volcano, it rose through the water column onto the sea surfaced and then it was dispersed by wind and sea currents," University of Tasmania volcanologist and lead author of the study, Dr Rebecca Carey, told Xinhua.

"We knew it was a large scale eruption, approximately equivalent to the biggest eruption we've seen on land in the 20th Century."

With a team of researchers and international collaborators, scientists sent two submersible vehicles to the remote location.

"We used an autonomous submarine to make high resolution topographic maps of the sea floor," Carey said.

"We did about 12 different surveys for 8-12 hours each and those maps are so high resolution that we were then able to use a remotely operated vehicle which is tethered to the ship, to actually go down and make observation of the eruption and also bring back samples."

With more than 80 percent of the world's volcanoes located underwater, scientists like Carey believe it's vital to learn more about them.

"Volcanoes provide heat and chemicals to the ocean and that input is actually really important when it comes to sustaining life," she said.

"Havre is a cornerstone eruptive event because for the first time we are able to constrain exactly what happened, where it happened, at what depth, how much and how fast it erupted."

"With this sort of quantitative understanding, we are able to probe the fundamental questions about how submarine volcanoes work."

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