Friday, December 18, 2009

Scientists watch deep-sea volcano for first time

Earth and ocean scientists also said the eruption allowed them to see for the first time the real-time creation of a material called boninite, which had previously been found only in samples a million or more years old.

SHOOT: We're still learning something new every day.
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In this image taken from a May 7, 2009 video and provided by the National

SAN FRANCISCO – Scientists have witnessed the eruption of the deepest submarine volcano ever discovered, capturing for the first time video of fiery bubbles of molten lava as they exploded 4,000 feet beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean in what researchers are calling a major geological discovery.

Scientists hope the images, data and samples obtained during the mission will shed new light on how the ocean's crust was formed, how some sea creatures survive and thrive in an extreme environment and how the earth behaves when tectonic plates ram into each other.

"It was an underwater Fourth of July," said Bob Embley, a marine geologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Since the water pressure at that depth suppresses the violence of the volcano's explosions, we could get the underwater robot within feet of the active eruption."

Researchers will continue monitoring the changing West Mata volcano, located about 140 miles southwest of Samoa.

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