Undersea Volcano Forming New Canary Island
November 12, 2011

Undersea Volcano Forming New Canary Island

A new Canary Island is rising to the surface before our very eyes, and the first images of the infant volcano that is slowly coming up to the surface in the Spanish archipelago emerged on Friday.

According to the Daily Mail, "Magma off the Canary Island of El Hierro has been spewing 20 meters high as the sea boils with a smell of sulfur“¦ As it grows and gets closer to the surface, more and more debris such as stones start to shoot out of the volcano which, until now, has only shown its explosive power below the surface."

"It is now just 70 meters from the surface and islanders are already trying to come up with a name for the new island," they added. "It is quite close to El Hierro and if it continues to erupt it could eventually meet up with the mainland."

TechMediaNetwork reporter Katherine Tweed notes that residents of the town of La Restinga were evacuated following weeks of earthquakes and the growing threat of the volcano, and the seismic activity near the El Hierro municipality alerted researchers from the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), who set sail and were able to obtain a high-resolution photo of the volcano.

The volcanic cone stretches nearly 330 feet (100 meters) above the seafloor, and is 2,300 feet (700 m) wide at its base," Tweed wrote on Friday. "Lava is currently oozing out of a crater in the center that is about 390 feet (120 m) wide."

IEO principal investigator Juan Acosta told her that this was the first time that they have been able to map a volcano so quickly (it took just two weeks). Tweed notes that Acosta and his team used "an advanced sensor system" onboard a ship called the Ramon Margalef "to perform the mapping of the seabed, a process known as bathymetry."

"The ship is also equipped with a robotic vessel that has gone closer to the young volcano, taking pictures and video and also measuring water temperature and gases present in the water," Tweed said. "The lava is constant for now, and the activity from the volcano is bringing gases and volcanic ash to the surface, staining the water above the new volcano."

"Although this is likely the same process that formed El Hierro and the rest of the Canary Islands, it is impossible to say if this eruption will ultimately create a new landmass, or when," she added, noting that Acosta told them that the eruption could continue for week, a month, or longer -- but for the time being, the cone was still "about 650 feet away from breaking through the ocean's surface."

The Daily Mail reports that residents of the Canary Islands are currently watching as the new island comes to the surface, and debating what name to bestow upon it.


Image Caption: Submarine eruptions off El Hierro, Canary Islands. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA´s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of the milky, yellow-green stained sea south of the island on November 2, 2011. On that same day, a magnitude 4.4 earthquake was reported in El Golfo Bay, a half-moon bay on the northern side of the island. The earthquake was followed by a strong harmonic tremor. Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC


On the Net: