‘Sharkcano:’ Eruption of underwater volcano, home to sharks, seen from space

The eruption of an underwater volcano, dubbed “Sharkcano” because it is home to sharks and reef fishes, has been captured by a NASA satellite.

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A NASA camera on the Landsat 9 satellite took the photos of the South Pacific volcano — Kavachi — in early May. The eruption can be seen on the photos.

While capturing images of the erupting volcano was new, the eruptions from the volcano were not surprising.

Kavachi has been nearly continuously erupting since 1939, according to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History Global Volcanism Program. The volcano produces superheated lava, steam, particulates, rock fragments and sulfur that sometimes reach the water’s surface, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

The volcano’s summit is roughly 65 feet below the surface of the water, with its base on the seafloor about three-fourths of a mile down, according to NASA. Kavachi is located about 15 miles south of Vangunu Island, part of the Solomon Islands east of Papua New Guinea.

A 2015 scientific expedition to the volcano found two species of sharks, including hammerheads, living in the submerged crater. The researchers also found microbial communities that thrive on sulfur, according to NASA.

The fact that sharks were found in the crater raised “new questions about the ecology of active submarine volcanoes and the extreme environments in which large marine animals can exist,” the researchers wrote in a 2016 Oceanography article, “Exploring the ‘Sharkcano.’”


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