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NASA Warns Acidic "Sharkcano" Is Starting To Erupt

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockMay 19 2022, 10:48 UTC
The sharkcano is erupting.

In 2015, an expedition set out to investigate the Kavachi submarine volcano in the Solomon Islands. The volcano had recently had a lull in activity, making it possible to explore inside the active crater.

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In the extreme conditions of acidic water containing high levels of sulfur on top of an active volcano, they found more life than they were expecting. As well as microbial species that thrive on sulfur, they discovered two species of sharks – hammerheads and the silky shark – living in the crater of the volcano. Their findings were published in 2016 in the journal Oceanography.

"Populations of gelatinous animals, small fish, and sharks were observed inside the active crater," the team wrote in their paper, "raising new questions about the ecology of active submarine volcanoes and the extreme environments in which large marine animals can exist."

The team dubbed the volcano "sharkcano", given the large number of sharks apparently happily living in the hot, acidic waters. Kavachi is located about 24 kilometers (15 miles) south of Vangunu Island.

"Two species of shark, the scalloped hammerhead Sphyrna lewini and the silky shark Carcharhinus falciformis, approached the baited camera multiple times in an aggressive pattern; in some cases, sharks appeared to be swimming from greater depths inside the crater."

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Satellite images from NASA have now shown that the creatures cool enough to dwell in a sharkcano may be in for a rough ride, as the Kavachi submarine volcano is erupting once more. 

The sharkcano is erupting. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens/Landsat/US Geological Survey

Images taken by the Operational Land Imager-2 on satellite Landsat 9 showed a large plume of discolored water on May 14, 2022, emitting from the volcano.

According to the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program, the volcano has seen more activity lately, beginning with discolored water emitting from the volcano in October 2021. Since the first eruption recorded at the site in 1939, the volcano has erupted near-continuously, though there have been periods of relative inactivity. The last major eruptions seen from the sharkcano took place in 2014.


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