A team of scientists has discovered three underwater volcanoes off the coast of Sicily. Now researchers will analyze rock samples to see if they are active. ‘This is a very important discovery because it sheds light on the unexplored seabed,’ said one of the mission’s participants, Dario Civile of Italy’s National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics (OGS).
The newly discovered volcanoes are at least six kilometers wide and rise more than 150 meters above the surrounding seabed. They are located between the towns of Mazarra and Sciacca off the south-western coast of the Italian island. They joined other volcanic cones discovered in the area by the Italian National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics (OGS) in 2019.
“This is a very important discovery because it sheds light on the unexplored seabed,” said Dario Civilie, an OGS scientist who took part in the research mission. “Shipping in the Mediterranean has been going on for millennia, but it is surprising that we know very little about its bottom,” he added.
Scientists collected rock samples, including lava deposits, for analysis in the following months.
It is not known if they are active
“We’ve noticed hydrothermal activity in the area, but it’s too early to tell if these volcanoes are active,” explained Civile. The mission’s chief scientist, Professor Aaron Micallef of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in California, however, assessed that based on the data so far, it can be said that their activity is unlikely.
There are believed to be over a million volcanoes underwater, accounting for 80 percent of the world’s volcanic activity. However, underwater eruptions often go unnoticed.
In the OGS communiqué, it was reported that the international scientific expedition M191 SUAVE lasted a week and ended on August 5. It was carried out on board the German ship Meteor.
Submarine volcanoes off the coast of Sicily are not the only discoveries. Scientists also came across a shipwreck measuring 100 by 17 meters. It was located at a depth of 110 meters halfway between the island of Linosa and Sicily.
The expedition was led by the GEOMAR – Helmhotlz Ocean Research Center in Kiel. The University of Malta, the Italian OGS institute, the American MBARI, the Victoria University of Wellington, as well as the universities of Birmingham, Oxford, Edinburgh and Kiel also participated in the research.
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