Northeast Lau Response Cruise (NELRC) 2009: Spectacular West Mata Eruptions
Scientists funded by NOAA and the National Science Foundation recorded the deepest erupting volcano yet discovered, describing high-definition video of the undersea eruption as spectacular. Eruption of the West Mata volcano, discovered in May 2009, occurred nearly 4,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, in an area bounded by Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. We found a type of lava never before seen erupting from an active volcano, and for the first time observed molten lava flowing across the deep-ocean seafloor, said the missions Chief Scientist Joseph Resing, a chemical oceanographer at the University of Washington who collaborates with NOAA through the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean. Though NOAA and partners discovered a much shallower eruption in 2004 in the Mariana Arc, the deeper we get, the closer the eruption is to those that formed most of the oceanic crust. This spectacular sequence is a close view of the eruption with violent magma degassing events producing bright flashes of hot magma. Lava is blown up into the water before settling back to the seafloor, and large plugs of lava flow rapidly down the slope. In the foreground is the front of the Jason remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) with sampling hoses. The area in view is about 6-10 feet across in an eruptive area approximately 100 yards that runs along the summit. Video courtesy of National Science Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).