Scientists Discover New 1100-Meter Seamount Rising from the Ocean Floor

First Posted: Sep 04, 2014 07:40 AM EDT

Scientists may have just found a new mountain beneath the waves of the Pacific Ocean. During a seafloor mapping mission, they found a new seamount near the Johnson Atoll rising 1,100 meters from the 5,100-meter-deep seafloor.

The researchers were actually conducting a mapping mission at the time in order to help delineate the outer limits of the U.S. continental shelf. They sued multibeam echosounder technology in order to create detailed images of the seafloor. That's when they spotted the seamount one night, appearing almost out of the blue.

"These seamounts are very common, but we don't know about them because most of the places that we go out and map have never been mapped before," said James Gardner, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Satellites just can't see these features and we can."

In fact, only low-resolution satellite data exists for most of Earth's seafloor. This means that many seamounts of this size aren't resolved until advanced echosounder missions encounter them.

Currently, the scientists aren't sure what the seamounts impact will be, though it does lie within the U.S. exclusive economic zone. This means that the minerals that it potentially possesses are under the jurisdiction of the U.S.  That said, the seamount is actually too deep, lying 4,000 meters below the surface, to be a navigation hazard or to provide any kind of rich fisheries or valuable resources. Yet that doesn't mean that it couldn't be useful, or a hindrance, in the future.

"It's probably 100 million years old," said Gardner. "And it might have something in it we may be interested in 100 years from now."

The scientists are continuing to map the seafloor and find more features. This, in turn, will help show both scientists and nations exactly what kinds of resources are available at the bottom of our oceans.

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