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Undersea volcano observed by US research ship
Updated: 2004-06-10 09:29

Scientists got a rare chance to see a volcano erupt underwater, spewing out rocks and clouding the water 1,800 feet below the surface during a recent research aboard a Seattle-based ship, officials said on Wednesday.

A camera-equipped submarine caught the eruption during a routine research trip to study undersea volcanoes northwest from the Northern Mariana islands, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Ocean Exploration said.

Lava from Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park crosses the beach to enter the Pacific Ocean at dawn June 2, 2004, in Volcano, Hawaii. [AP]

"The exploration underscored the fact that we have much to learn about earth's more important features, the oceans," said Craig McLean, director of NOAA Ocean Exploration.

The newly observed volcano, dubbed "Brimstone Pit" by the scientists, was part of a 21-day expedition with U.S. and Canadian scientists to observe undersea volcanoes as well as marine life.

The unmanned robotic submarine was near the edge of a volcano when suddenly, a billowing undersea cloud increased in size and turned yellow, evidence of sulfur. The submarine was then pelted by rocks spewing out of the volcano.

Scientists discovered an undersea volcano off the coast of Antarctica last month, but it has not been observed up close.

Undersea volcanoes, in fact, are not rare, making up more than 70 percent of the earth's volcanoes. But they are difficult to observe, given the depth, heat and elements.

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