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Features May 2004: Volume 1, Number 2
   

Eel City

 
     


Eel City may sound like it’s out of a Sci-Fi movie, but scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography have just found that such a slithery place exists.

The researchers were exploring in the manned submersible Pisces V when they discovered an active undersea volcano near the South Pacific’s Samoan Island chain. Dubbed Nafanua, after the ferocious Samoan goddess of war, the new volcano did not exist four years ago when the area was last explored.

The researcher found the volcano surrounded by hydrothermal vents—breaks in the ocean floor through which hot water from beneath Earth’s surface seeps into the sea. As the submersible landed among the vents, hundreds of eels, each approximately one foot in length, slithered from rocky caves and crevices.

Now at nearly 1,000 feet tall, Nafanua is growing at least eight inches per day and its summit could reach a depth of about 200 meters within a few decades.

“It is a good idea for us to keep our eyes on this area,” says Scripps geologist Hubert Staudigel.

Contributors to Making Waves: Malinda Danziger, '00, Jessica Demian, Karla DeVries, '04, Inga Kiderrra, Paul Mueller.

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Samoan Expedition
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Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD
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"As the submersible landed among the vents, hundreds of eels, each approximately one foot in length, slithered from rocky caves and crevices.”