Underwater Volcano Erupts Near Tonga

A team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration caught the first ever video recording of an underwater volcano erupting.


There are several reports today that an underwater volcano near Tonga has been erupting for days. The pictures, admittedly, are spectacular. But this isn’t rare.

There are dozens of volcanoes around Tonga. The last one known to have erupted was Home Reef in August 2006. Only passengers on a yacht sailing nearby saw that eruption. The NASA satellite Aura also detected sulfur dioxide emissions from the event. But the source of the eruption was originally identified as being from another volcano, Metis Shoal. Home Reef wasn’t identified as the source until months later.

When I wrote about the Home Reef explosion back in 2006, I looked for an expert on that volcano. I assumed, naively, that all volcanoes must be monitored or at least studied. That’s not true, though, and many of the Tongan volcanoes, for example, lack even names.

Having caught this latest explosion in the act, and since it is located fairly close to the Tongan capital of Nuku'alofa, perhaps this volcano, whichever one it is, will be a bit better studied.

The video below is from William Chadwick and his team at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from when they caught the first ever video recording of an underwater volcano erupting.

A remote camera captures the first-ever video of an erupting underwater volcano
About Sarah Zielinski
Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. She is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com and blogs at Wild Things, which appears on Science News.

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