A huge volcano hundreds of meters below the surface of the ocean has begun to erupt near the deepest point on Earth.
“Ahyi Seamount” – a large undersea volcano – lies about 137 meters deep in the Pacific Ocean under the Northern Mariana Islands, which are more than 6,000 kilometers west of Honolulu, Hawaii.
Satellite images show a blob on the ocean surface above Ahyi, the US Geological Survey said in a statement. But the remote area makes it difficult to confirm its activity.
However, hydroacoustic sensors on Wake Island have detected signals “consistent with activity from an underwater volcanic source”, strongly suggesting that these are “noises” coming from Ahyi.
The underwater volcano is 200 kilometers from the Mariana Trench — the deepest oceanic trench on Earth — Matthew Haney, a research geophysicist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, told.
The trench is 10,994 meters below the surface of the ocean and is deeper than how high Mount Everest is.
The crescent-shaped gap in the Earth’s crust is also 2,500 kilometers long and 69 kilometers wide.
Trenches like this are formed when two tectonic plates ‘collide’.
In the case of the Mariana Trench, the Pacific plate ‘collided’ with the much smaller Philippine plate.
The volcano could have started to erupt in mid-October, but again, the remoteness of the area has made it difficult to confirm, the USGS said in a statement.
There are no monitoring stations nearby, meaning scientists are limited in their ability to assess volcanic activity. Researchers aren’t sure if they’ll be able to get close enough to the area to see what’s going on, but they’re continuing to closely monitor satellite images.
“Nothing is certain yet, but I have been involved in several emails where scientists from NOAA were discussing going to Ahyi by ship to make observations, such as bathymetry [sea or lake depth] measurements,” Haney said.
Although the level of ‘volcanic unrest’ is not certain, ships would like to avoid the area. It is not the first time that activity has been detected from there as this has been observed in previous cases where the volcano came to life.
The last eruption occurred on May 17, 2014.
NOAA divers were conducting searches on nearby coral reefs at the time and reported hearing large explosions.
In the Mariana region, there are nine volcanic islands and more than 60 underwater volcanoes – about 20 of which are considered active.
It is even one of the most active volcanic areas in the world.