May 13, 2012
The violent rise and collapse of an underwater volcano in the Pacific Ocean is captured in startling clarity for the first time.
Researchers studying the Monowai volcano, near Tonga, recorded huge changes in height in just two weeks.
The images, gathered by sonar from a research ship, shed new light on the turbulent fate of submarine mountains.
Published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the findings were made during a seabed survey last year.
Lead author Tony Watts of Oxford University told the BBC that the revelation was "a wake-up call that the sea-floor may be more dynamic than we previously thought."
"I've spent my career studying the seabed and have generally thought it pretty stable so it's stunning to see so much change in such a short space of time."
As many as 32,000 underwater mountains have been identified around the world and the majority are believed to be volcanic in origin. Several thousand of these may be active but a combination of ocean depth and remoteness means that very few have been studied.