(ORDO NEWS) — Volcano Kawachi, an active underwater volcano in the Solomon Islands, has long been home to sharks. Recently, however, their once-peaceful playground in the Pacific Southwest has become a little less peaceful.
In recent months, plumes of discolored water have been detected on NASA satellite images above the volcano – signs of volcanic activity hinting at multiple eruptions.
The images were taken by the Operational Land Imager-2 (OLI-2) aboard the Landsat-9 satellite, as part of the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, shared the news over the weekend in a tweet that read: “You’ve heard of sharks, now get ready for a shark volcano.”
Researchers noticed changes in the color of the water above the volcano in April and May, and the volcano likely began erupting as early as October last year, according to a statement released by NASA’s Earth Observatory.
Prior to this, the last major eruptions occurred in 2014 and 2007. (According to records, the first recorded eruption of Kawacha occurred in 1939, and subsequent explosions led to the formation of ephemeral islands).
Previous studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have shown that plumes of warm, acidic volcano water typically contain particulate matter, volcanic rock fragments and sulfur, the latter of which “attracts microbial communities that thrive on sulfur.”
During a research expedition to Kavachi in 2015, scientists were surprised to find that, despite the turbulent history of this place, two species of sharks live in the crater of the volcano – hammerhead and silky.
In a 2016 paper in the journal Oceanography titled “Exploring the Sharkcano”, the researchers wrote that the presence of sharks in the crater has raised “new questions about the ecology of active underwater volcanoes and the extreme conditions in which large marine animals live.”
The top of Kavacha is about 65 feet (20 meters) below sea level, and its base extends along the sea floor at a depth of 0.75 miles (1.2 kilometers).
The volcano is located about 15 miles (24 km) south of Wangunu Island, one of more than 900 islands formed in a tectonically active zone that make up the Solomon Islands archipelago.
Residents of nearby islands have reported regularly seeing steam and ash on the surface of the water, further confirming that the so-called shark volcano is seeping below the surface.
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