A chain of a dozen volcanoes beneath the sea surface in the southern Atlantic Ocean around South Sandwich Islands has been discovered, scientists from British Antarctic Survey said.

The discovery made through ship-borne sea-floor mapping technology during research cruises onboard the RRS James Clark Ross has revealed some of these volcanoes as high as three kilometers.

The Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey (BAS), a leading researcher of global environmental issues, found five-kilometer diameter craters left by collapsing volcanoes and seven active volcanoes visible above the sea as a chain of islands.

There is so much that we don’t understand about volcanic activity beneath the sea — it’s likely that volcanoes are erupting or collapsing all the time. The technologies that scientists can now use from ships will help shed new light on the development of natural events that pose hazards for people, Dr Phil Leat from British Antarctic Survey said.

The new discovery is expected to provide clues to the possible devastating tsunamis in the region as well as the chances of finding a totally new ecosystem and life forms that may exist around the hot waters of the undersea volcanoes.

“The research is important for understanding what happens when volcanoes erupt or collapse underwater and their potential for creating serious hazards such as tsunamis. Also this sub-sea landscape, with its waters warmed by volcanic activity creates a rich habitat for many species of wildlife and adds valuable new insight about life on earth,” BAS scientists said in a statement.

Sea-floor

Sea-floor mapping technology reveals volcanoes beneath the sea surface. PHOTO: British Antarctic Survey

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