Vailuluu rises 14,300 feet from the Pacific Ocean seafloor near the Samoan Islands. It ranges 21 miles at its base and is crowned with a mile-wide caldera that is 2,000 feet below the ocean surface. The new volcano, Nafanua, is growing inside the caldera and is nearly 1,000 feet high. (Stan Hart, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
An international team of scientists, led by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Oregon and University of Sydney, has discovered an active underwater volcano near the Samoan Island chain about 2,400 miles southwest of Hawaii.
During a research cruise to study the Samoan hot spot, scientists uncovered a submarine volcano growing in the summit crater of another larger underwater volcano, Vailulu’u. Researchers explored the unique biological community surrounding the eruption site, and were amazed to find an “Eel City,” a community of hundreds of eels.
This new volcano, dubbed Nafanua after the ferocious Samoan goddess of war, did not exist just fours years ago, according to co-chief scientists Stan Hart, a geochemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) , and Hubert Staudigel, a geologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. With a growth rate averaging eight inches per day, the volcanic cone has rapidly formed since the scientists’ last expedition to this area in May 2001. Nafanua now stands at 300 meters, or nearly 1,000 feet.
Shelley Dawicki | EurekAlert!
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