New deep-sea mountains over 2,680 meters high discovered by gravity anomalies

Four underwater mountains have been discovered in the Pacific Ocean, one of which is 2,681 meters high – that’s more than three times the height of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper.

The collection of seamounts was identified last month by the Schmidt Ocean Institute research vessel Falkor (also) during a trip between Golfito in Costa Rica and Valparaiso in Chile.

The four seamounts range in size from approximately 1,591 meters (5,220 ft) to 2,681 meters (8,796 ft).

This revelation builds on a discovery the same crew made last year. In November 2023, the Falkor (also) research vessel encountered an underwater mountain twice as high as the Burj Khalifa at 1,600 meters (5,259 feet) in international waters off the coast of Guatemala.

The largest of the four seamounts recently discovered by experts at the Schmidt Ocean Institute is 2,681 meters high.

Image credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute

The seamounts were located by measuring gravity anomalies in the sea. Structures on the seabed have a very small impact on the sea surface: a large underwater trench will cause a small dip in the sea surface, while a mountain of significant size will cause the water surface to bulge.

“We were fortunate to be able to plan an opportunistic mapping route using these gravity anomalies in satellite altimetry data,” John Fulmer, a marine technician and hydrographic expert at the Schmidt Ocean Institute, said in a statement to IFLScience.

“Examining gravity anomalies is a fancy way of saying we looked for bumps on a map, and when we did we located these very large seamounts while staying on schedule for our first scientific expedition in Chile at the beginning of this years,” says Fulmer. .

A seamount is an underwater mountain with steep walls that are typically the remains of extinct volcanoes. These fascinating features often become hives of biodiversity, as they provide wildlife with a solid substrate to live on and provide them with food and nutrients.

“Locating seamounts almost always leads us to understudied biodiversity hotspots,” explains Dr. Jyotika Virmani, executive director of the Schmidt Ocean Institute.

“Every time we encounter these vibrant communities on the seafloor, we make incredible new discoveries and advance our knowledge of life on Earth,” Virmani added.

The research vessel Falkor of the Schmidt Ocean Institute (also) sails on the high seas.

The Schmidt Ocean Institute research vessel Falkor (also) sailing on the high seas.

Image credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute

Seamounts can be enormous. Technically, the tallest mountain on Earth is a partially submerged seamount: Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano that stands more than 35,000 feet (10,210 meters) high. For comparison, Mount Everest is only 8,849 meters high.

The new discovery of the seamount is a small part of a much larger project to map the entire world’s seabed. Since 2013, the Schmidt Ocean Institute has mapped over 1.44 million square kilometers (about 500,000 square miles) of the seafloor, creating a map of nearly 25 percent of the seafloor at a resolution of 100 meters (328 feet). ) or higher.

By the end of this decade, they hope to have mapped the entire seafloor, all 360 million square kilometers (139 million square miles).

“These incredible discoveries by the Schmidt Ocean Institute underscore the importance of a complete map of the seafloor in our quest to understand Earth’s final frontier,” continued Jamie McMichael-Phillips, Project Director of Seabed 2030.

“With 75 percent of the ocean yet to be mapped, there is still much to discover. Mapping the oceans is crucial to our understanding of the planet and, in turn, to our ability to ensure its protection and sustainable management,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *