18 Dec 2009

Video shown of active underwater Pacific volcano

12:45 pm on 18 December 2009

US scientists have shown a video of the deepest underwater volcanic eruption ever seen, at a site near Samoa where lava shoots into cold seawater nearly about 1.5 kilometres below the ocean surface.

Last May, scientists on board the research ship Thomas Thompson deployed a remote-controlled vehicle to get close to the rumbling volcano as it ejected molten bubbles of lava a meter across.

The West Mata volcano was discovered below in an area between Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.

It is ten kilometres long and six kilometres wide, rising about 1.5 kilometers from the sea floor.

Samples collected near the volcano showed the seawater to be highly acidic, similar to battery or stomach acid, researchers said.

Despite the harsh conditions, scientists found and photographed a species of shrimp apparently thriving near the volcanic vents.

The volcano is spewing a type of lava known as boninite, which until now had only been seen in extinct volcanoes more than a million years old.