Massive Underwater Volcano Erupts Near Deepest Point on Earth

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

A massive underwater volcano has scientists intrigued as tremors have been detected coming from an area near the deepest point on the planet, the Mariana Trench. The underwater volcano is located in an extremely remote location of the planet. Situated 124 miles away from the Mariana Trench, experts are having trouble pinpointing when exactly the seamount began erupting. They’re also struggling to record the true intensity of the eruption itself.

Newsweek reports the submarine peak, known as the Ahyi Seamount, lies 449 feet in the Pacific Ocean below the Northern Mariana Islands. The islands lie more than 3,700 miles west of Honolulu, Hawaii. The news outlet states hydroacoustic sensors at Wake Island detected signals “consistent with activity from an undersea volcanic source.”

Visually, there is not a lot that volcanologists can actually confirm. So far, the outlet reports that satellite images have recorded some discoloration at the ocean’s surface above the Ahyi Seamount. However, because there are no monitoring stations nearby the volcano, experts are extremely limited in their research.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the underwater volcano near the Mariana Trench could have begun erupting as early as mid-October. However, again, pinpointing a date isn’t exactly possible. Further, scientists are uncertain whether they will actually manage to get close enough to the seamount to see what’s really taking place beneath the ocean’s surface. Still, they continue to monitor underwater activity via satellite imagery.

Mariners Encouraged to Avoid Ahyi Volcano Region

Of the underwater eruption, Matthew Haney, Research Geophysicist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, said, “Nothing is certain yet, but I have been included on some emails where scientists from NOAA (National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration) were discussing going to Ahyi by ship to make observations, such as bathymetry [sea or lake depth] measurements.”

At this time, other passing ships have been encouraged to avoid Ahyi Seamount and the surrounding area.

While the Ahyi Seamount eruption has captured our attention, it’s hardly the only massive volcano in the Mariana region. And it’s important to recognize that it may not be the only one coming to life in the near future.

In total, the Mariana region boasts more than five dozen undersea volcanoes, with 20 of those still considered active. Above sea level, there are nine volcanic islands. The Mariana region is considered one of the most active volcanic areas in the world. The news outlet reports the Mariana Trench itself, stretching 36,069.6 feet—a number that surpasses Mount Everest in height—formed when Earth’s Pacific plate collided with the significantly smaller Philippine plate.

More significantly, this hardly marks the first time that the Ahyi Seamount has sprung to life. Scientists last recorded an eruption from this underwater volcano in 2014.

Currently, scientists have their attention diverted between two volcanic peaks. While one eye remains trained on the Ahyi Seamount, the other is focused on the much more accessible peak, Mauna Loa. Mauna Loa, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, represents the largest active volcano in the world. And while experts don’t believe an eruption is imminent, the large mountain is slowly rumbling to life.