Deep-sea explorers discovered a garden of glass on the Pacific Ocean floor in December 2015. Unable to fully crystallise in the frigid water, these dark rings of quickly cooling magma looked like a nightmare Dale Chihuly show in the Pacific Ocean’s gloomy gallery. This trench was 3 miles (4.5 kilometres) deep and was covered by pillowy magma deposits that lasted for 4.5 miles (7.3 kilometres).
It was an amazing find because of the stunning aesthetics and because of the freshness of the glassy magma formations. As a matter of fact, a new study published in Frontiers in Earth Science claims that this garden of glass in the Pacific Ocean is the deepest-known volcanic eruption on the planet.
As lead author Bill Chadwick, a marine geologist at Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, noted in a press release, “we realise that most of the world’s volcanic activity actually occurs in the ocean, but a large portion of it goes undetected and unseen.” Several of these locations are deep and leave no traces on the surface. That’s why undersea eruptions are so dangerous,” he continues.
Marine exploration technologies has made discoveries like this one increasingly regular. Chadwick points out that in the preceding 30 years, researchers have discovered evidence of 40 such underwater eruptions. Before 1990, they had found no evidence of it.
During their exploration of the Mariana Trough, a crescent of volcanism, in the Mariana Trench, where the Pacific tectonic plate subducts beneath the Philippine Sea plate southeast of Japan, Chadwick and his collaborators discovered this super-deep volcano.
At 14,700 feet (4,500 metres), an automated underwater vehicle dubbed Sentry spotted the magma formations for the first time. During subsequent trips to the site, shrimp and lobsters had begun to colonise the formations, but permanent occupants (such as worms) remained absent.
Underwater volcanoes can provide insight into how terrestrial volcanoes function and how ocean chemistry is affected, according to Chadwick. This is a unique learning opportunity, and we should take use of it while we can.