New deep-sea mountains more than 2,680 meters high have been discovered due to gravity anomalies
Four underwater mountains have been discovered in the Pacific Ocean, one of which stands 2,681 meters (8,796 feet) high – more than three times the height of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper.
The group of seamounts was identified last month by the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Valcor (too) While on a trip between Golfito, Costa Rica and Valparaiso, Chile.
The four seamounts range in size from about 1,591 meters (5,220 ft) to 2,681 meters (8,796 ft).
This revelation is based on a discovery made by the same crew last year. In November 2023, Valcor (too) A research ship has stumbled across an underwater mountain twice the height of the Burj Khalifa at 1,600 meters (5,259 feet) in international waters off Guatemala.
The largest of the four seamounts recently discovered by experts at the Schmidt Ocean Institute is 2,681 meters (8,796 feet) high.
Image source: Schmidt Ocean Institute
The location of seamounts was determined by measuring gravity anomalies within the sea. Structures on the sea floor have very little effect on the sea surface: a wide underwater trench will cause a slight depression in the sea surface, while a mountain of great height will cause the water surface to bulge.
“We were fortunate enough to be able to plan an opportunistic mapping path using gravity anomalies in satellite altimetry data,” John Vollmer, a marine technician and hydrographer at the Schmidt Ocean Institute, said in a statement sent to IFLScience.
“Checking out gravity anomalies is a fancy way of saying we looked for ridges on the map, and when we did, we located these very large seamounts while staying on schedule for our first science cruise in Chile at the beginning of this year,” Vollmer said. .
A seamount is an underwater mountain with steep sides that are usually the remains of extinct volcanoes. These impressive features often become hives of biodiversity because they provide wildlife with a solid surface to live on, providing them with food and nutrients.
“Locating seamounts always leads us to understudied biodiversity hotspots,” explains Dr. Jyotika Virmani, Executive Director of the Schmidt Ocean Institute.
“Every time we find these crowded communities at the bottom of the sea, we make amazing new discoveries and advance our knowledge of life on Earth,” Virmani added.
Schmidt Ocean Institute research ship Valcor (too) Sailing on the high seas.
Image source: Schmidt Ocean Institute
Seamounts can be huge in size. Technically, the tallest mountain on Earth is a partially submerged seamount: Mauna Kea in Hawaii, an extinct volcano more than 10,210 meters (33,500 feet) high. In comparison, Mount Everest is only 8,849 meters (29,032 feet) tall.
The new seamount discovery is a small part of a much larger project to map the entire world’s seafloor. Since 2013, the Schmidt Ocean Institute has mapped more than 1.44 million square kilometers (about 500,000 square miles) of 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 map the entire sea floor, which has an area of 360 million square kilometers (139 million square miles).
Jamie McMichael Phillips, Seafloor 2030 Project Director, continued: “These amazing discoveries by the Schmidt Ocean Institute underscore the importance of a complete map of the seafloor in our quest to understand the Earth’s final boundaries.”
“With 75% of the oceans yet to be mapped, there is much to discover. Mapping the oceans is critical to our understanding of the planet and, therefore, to our ability to ensure its protection and sustainable management.