Saturday, May 27, 2006

Repeated underwater volcano eruptions may be responsible for continents and islands rising up!

A team of Japanese and U.S. researchers said Thursday an unmanned probe got within meters (feet) of a violent underwater eruption in the Pacific Ocean, returning with the clearest footage ever captured of seismic activity under the sea.

The footage, released Thursday by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, showed gray ash and volcanic rock spewing from the summit of the underwater NW Rota-1 volcano as it erupted in October.

The joint Japan-U.S. research team also collected sediment samples, team leader Yoshihiko Tamura said. The Hyper Dolphin probe went as close as 2-3 meters (7-10 feet) from the eruption.
"We believe it's the first time anybody has captured quality footage of an underwater eruption from such a close distance," Tamura said.

The video captures a lava flow streaming down the side of the volcano, 553 meters (1,800 feet) underwater in the Mariana Arc volcanic chain, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

Analysis of the footage and sediment could help explain how repeated eruptions of underwater volcanos eventually give rise to islands, and even continents, Tamura said.

"Further research could shed light on the very fundamentals of how land masses are formed," he said.

Preliminary research findings are reported by Tamura, Robert W. Embley of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other team members in this week's edition of the journal Nature.

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