On Friday (New Zealand time), R/V Roger Revelle sailed from Auckland and we’re on our way to Havre Seamount to make seafloor observations and take samples from this newest known submarine volcanic deposit. This is my third trip, widely spaced over two decades, to study deposits of volcanic eruptions on the seafloor, but my first in which the team will deploy a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). It will also be, by a wide margin, the youngest eruption deposits that I will have seen on the seafloor. There are not a lot of physical volcanologists who study submarine volcanoes, and there have been very few submarine eruptions that we know of historically. This isn’t because there are very few eruptions–in fact, most of Earth’s volcanic activity occurs underwater—it’s because the ocean is vast and seawater covers these volcanoes obscuring eruptions from us on the surface, even if someone is in the vicinity. The story elsewhere on the official site, about how people found out about the Havre eruption, provides a great illustration of how different it is to study submarine volcanoes compared to those on land. And now, after I’ve worked with a 2-million-year-old deposit, and one perhaps only hundreds or thousands of years old, I’ll finally get to look at a fresh one, from an eruption that we know quite a bit about already. This time, however, we won’t be collecting samples from a, so I won’t get another visit to one of Earth’s least-visited realms, but the ROV is much more efficient. Watching the big screens from the ship’s control room will actually provide a better view than you get “live” looking out of the portholes of a research submarine—plus you don’t have to hold your bladder for six or eight hours! By James White
- What is a volcanologist?
- not supplied