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Underwater Fire – Studying the Submarine Volcanoes of Tonga: It may not come as a surprise that very few active or recently active submarine volcanoes have been studied, especially in the deep sea, due to the remote and difficult conditions in which they are found. This November, Dr. Ken Rubin and his research team will get the opportunity to return to one of the most active underwater volcano sites in the world, the Meta Volcano group. Located in the Pacific in waters off of Tonga, the Northeast Lau basin and adjacent Tofua arc are an excellent natural laboratory containing perhaps the largest number of individual, closely-spaced volcanoes globally (an estimated 30 discrete volcanoes in a 50 x 50 km area). Aboard R/V Falkor, the group will head straight to the volcanic region to obtain a detailed geological understanding of up to 12 different submarine volcanoes. What makes this expedition unique is that the team will attempt to do this across a suite of volcanos for the very first time. The idea is that neighboring volcanoes eject larvae or produce refugea, so that when one is erupting, species move between the volcanoes. The goal is to reveal the interplay between volcanic and hydrothermal activity, and the evolving seafloor ecology. The team will construct a recent history of each volcano and how it has been colonized, identifying why each submarine volcano is present, how long it took to form, and how it developed and maintains hydrothermal activity. Learn more here.

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