An underwater volcano with mutated sharks swimming in the crater is beginning to erupt, Nasa has warned.
Satellite imagery shows massive underwater plumes emanating from Kavachi in the South Pacific — nicknamed “sharkcano” because of the large number of sharks that inhabit the hot, acidic waters.
Kavachi, near the Solomon Islands, was formed by plate tectonics, according to Kadie Bennis, a volcano data researcher with the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volvanism Program (GVP).
“There’s a whole bunch of different records around the world that move on the mantle.
“If you have two plates that come together at certain boundaries, and one of them starts to subduct, for example, a volcano could show up on one of those plates,” Bennis said. “And that’s exactly what happens with Kavachi.”
Bennis is part of a team that tracks volcanic activity using data from global volcano observatories as well as Nasa’s Earth Observatory and other spacecraft.
Recent satellite imagery of Kavachi volcano shows it is active and erupting.
An image captured by Nasa and the US Geological Survey’s Landsat satellite was captured on May 19 and shared by Nasa’s Earth Observatory.
In 2015, a National Geographic team of researchers explored the volcano and discovered marine life that lives with the active crater, including both silky and hammerhead sharks.
Marine life actively living around underwater volcanoes isn’t that uncommon, Bennis said.
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However, it is more difficult to observe the sharks in person because the volcano is submerged.
Scientists have been amazed at how the sharks survive in such acidic conditions.
At the time of the survey, marine engineer Brennan Phillips said: “If it erupts, there’s no way anything can live there.
“That’s what makes it so confusing to spot these animals inside the volcano.
“They live in a place where they could ‘die any minute,’ so how do they survive?”
“It’s very murky, so the water is very murky. Neither of those things are good for fish,” Phillips added.
Scientists believe the sharks must have mutated to survive in the hot and acidic environment.
And the discovery raises more questions about what other changes they’ve undergone.
Phillips asked, “Are you going? Do they have any kind of signs that it’s about to erupt? Do they explode sky high in little pieces?”
Kavachi is more accessible because it lies in relatively shallow water, about 20 meters below the surface.
“We see it all the time that even just on the surface, there are people in cities built around volcanoes, or there’s this volcanic mouse species that likes to live around other types of volcanoes in different parts of the world,” said Bennis.
“So it’s perfectly normal for sharks and other marine life to be around underwater volcanoes, because that’s just how they contribute to the ecosystem, too.”
EMERGENCY SINCE 1939
While the GVP has data on volcanoes going back 12,000 years, the first recorded eruption from Kavachi was in 1939.
“There were only people out there having a good time, and they noticed that there was this very formation of an island in the middle of the ocean,” Bennis said of the 1939 encounter.
“And they’re like, ‘Whoa, that’s kind of weird.’ And this is our first documented evidence of this volcanic activity.”
Since then, Kavachi has had 36 eruptive periods.
Satellite data from Landsat-9 and other spacecraft has made it easier to monitor underwater volcanic activity, Bennis said.
Underwater volcanoes have the same characteristics as surface volcanoes, including eruptions.
Bennis said Kavachi generally did not pose any hazards to people boating in the area because they know to stay away from the volcano.
Sometimes underwater volcanoes can produce rafts of pumice, which may indicate volcanic activity beneath the sea.
“Pretty much just chunks of rock that exploded from the volcano. And they’re just like hanging out and floating on water,” Bennis said.
“Sometimes that can be dangerous for boats because you don’t want rocks getting stuck in your rudder or anything, but that’s pretty much the only hazard we have to worry about with this particular volcano.”
The last significant eruption was in 2014.
According to Nasa, nearby islanders could see visible steam and ash.
Kavachi’s last eruptive period began in October 2021 and has occurred intermittently since then.
Bennis said the GVP is examining satellite imagery for new activity, such as the cloud spotted by Landsat-9 earlier this month.
However, these observations are dependent on clear skies.
“If the weather is nice enough to look at the satellite data, not only do we see a cloudy day, but we can actually get a good look at where the volcanic event is,” Bennis said.
“At the moment it has mainly changed the color of the water. So there are a lot of just colored feathers around it.”
However, volcanoes can be unpredictable, including when they will erupt and how long they will last.
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/8837508/sharkcano-kavachi-mutant-sharks-crater-erupting-nasa/ The deadly ‘sharkcano’ Kavachi, home to mutant sharks in an acidic underwater crater, is beginning to erupt, Nasa warns