A British research team has discovered a chain of 12 undersea volcanoes near the remote South Sandwich Islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean. It is the first group of large undersea volcanoes ever found in the Antarctic region.
Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) say that seven of the massive volcanoes are still active. Some of the mountain peaks rise three kilometers above the ocean floor, nearly tall enough to break the water’s surface. The collapsed craters of others measure five kilometers across.
When undersea volcanoes erupt or collapse, they can trigger powerful natural phenomena, such as tsunamis. The BAS team says its discovery will help researchers better understand that process.
Volcanic hot water vents on the ocean floor also create rich and unique ecosystems for many species of marine life found nowhere else on the planet.
The BAS research team found the undersea mounts while using specialized sonar technology to create a high-resolution map of the ocean floor during Antarctic survey voyages in 2007 and 2010.
British Antarctic Survey is a leading international environmental research center, and is responsible for Britain’s national scientific activities in Antarctica.