SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Researchers have installed a seismometer atop an active volcano called Kick 'em Jenny under the Caribbean Sea to warn of eruptions or earthquake activity, scientists said Saturday.
The device allows scientists to collect real-time rumbling from tremors or as bubbling magma and gases are released from the volcano, about 820 feet beneath the sea's surface off Grenada's northwest coast.
"The system essentially acts as a kind of doctor's stethoscope so we can directly listen to the pulse of the volcano," said Richard Robertson, director of the Seismic Research Unit at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad.
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He said the seismometer is connected to a flexible hose that runs to a buoy, where a high-frequency radio transmitter sends readings to an observatory in a northern Grenadian village — all within milliseconds.
A team of scientists led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts attached the monitoring system to the volcano by a remote-controlled underwater craft on May 6.
"By putting a seismometer right on the volcano we will significantly improve our ability to detect precursory activity before an eruption takes place," said Woods Hole scientist Rob Reves-Sohn.
Since its discovery in 1939, when it shot a cloud of ash 900 feet above the sea surface, Kick 'em Jenny has erupted at least 12 times, most recently in 2001.
The volcano, which rises above the sea floor on the steep inner western slope of the Lesser Antilles ridge, has not caused any deaths or injuries.
In 2003, scientists discovered a field of five other active underwater volcanos off Grenada's north coast.
The largest, nearly one mile high, was dubbed Kick 'em Jack, after its neighbor.