PLANET EARTH

Undersea Volcanic Eruption

A robot has recorded the deepest erupting undersea volcano ever seen, capturing for the first time fiery molten lava bubbles 4,000 feet beneath the Pacific.

Ash, Rock, and Molten Lava

An explosion near the summit of West Mata volcano throws ash and rock. Molten lava glows below. Image is about six feet across in an eruptive area about 100 yards that runs along the summit.

NOAA and NSF

Pillow Lava

Bands of glowing magma, about 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, are exposed as a pillow lava tube extrudes down slope. Image is about three feet across in an eruptive area about 100 yards that runs along the summit.

NOAA and NSF

Molten Lava

Superheated molten lava, about 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, is about to explode into the water in this image. The area in view is about 6-10 feet across in an eruptive area approximately the length of a football field that runs along the summit.

NOAA and NSF

Underwater Fire and Smoke

Orange glow of magma is visible on left of sulfur-laden plume. Image is about six feet across in an eruptive area about 100 yards that runs along the summit.

NOAA and NSF

A Fiery Deep-Sea Blast

Hot magma blows up into the water before settling to the seafloor. Foreground: Jason remotely-operated vehicle with sampling hoses. Image is about 6-10 feet across in an eruptive area about 100 yards that runs along the summit

NOAA and NSF

Robot Samples Hot Jet

Jason, a remotely-operated vehicle, samples fluid at an eruptive area near the summit of the West Mata Volcano. The fluid sampling "wand" is about 3 feet long. 

NOAA and NSF

Satellite Map

West Mata Volcano, in the Lau Basin, is located in the southwest Pacific, within an area bounded by Samoa, Tonga and Fiji (the black areas on the map, which are the only areas above water). Area is home to many submarine volcanoes.

NOAA

Bathymetry Map

West Mata Volcano (the white ellipse on this bathymetric map) is not the largest volcano in the northeast Lau Basin, but appears to be the most active. Map represents the area visited and mapped on two recent expeditions. Summit of West Mata Volcano is nearly one mile deep, the base is nearly 2 miles deep. Tonga Trench (north and east of the expedition area) is nearly seven miles deep. 

NOAA

Summit of West Mata Volcano

Summit of West Mata Volcano, shown in red, is nearly a mile below the ocean surface (3,882 feet), and the base, shown in blue, descends to nearly two miles deep. Eruptions occurred at several places along the summit, in an area about 100 yards. The volcano has a six-mile-long rift zone running along its spine in a SW/NE orientation.

NOAA

Undersea Volcanic Eruption

A robot has recorded the deepest erupting undersea volcano ever seen, capturing for the first time fiery molten lava bubbles 4,000 feet beneath the Pacific.

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