Deep-Sea Cameras Reveal “Sharkcano”

The water is greenish-orange due to an ash-laden plume concealing Kavachi volcano's active summit just beneath the surface. It can erupt over 500 feet into the air.  (Photo by Alex DeCiccio)

Over four days, Brennan Phillips’ expedition team boated closer and closer to Kavachi, an underwater volcano off the Solomon Islands.

“Absolutely, we were scared,” says Phillips, a National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program grantee. “But one of the ways you can tell that Kavachi is erupting is that you can actually hear it—both on the surface and underwater. Anywhere within 10 miles even, you can hear it rumbling in your ears and in your body.” No one heard rumbling, so they prepared to go right to the rim of the crater.

Their mission was to make a map of Kavachi’s peak and learn as much as possible about the chemical plumes, geology, and biology of the volcano. It is an extreme and dangerous environment.

Sensing Earth’s Inner Power

“Nobody actually knows how often Kavachi erupts,” says Phillips, referring to it actively “spewing hot lava, ash, and steam up in to the air.”

Even without such theatrics it’s a dangerous place though. “Divers who have gotten close to the outer edge of the volcano have had to back away because of how hot it is or because they were getting mild skin burns from the acid water.”

So the team strategically deployed their instruments—including disposable robots, underwater cameras, and National Geographic’s deep-sea Drop Cam—to get a broad look at the whole volcano, including what the bottom looks like. Their biggest surprise was that hammerheads and silky sharks showed up on their deep-sea Drop Cam footage—in numbers (Related story: Sleeper Shark Pops Up in Unexpected Place).

The greenish-orange color of the water in this photo is due to an ash-laden plume concealing Kavachi volcano’s active summit just beneath the surface. It can erupt over 500 feet into the air. (Photo by Alex DeCiccio)

How Do They Survive?

“These large animals are living in what you have to assume is —> Read More

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