GALVESTON, TX – Researchers off the coast of Galveston were recently using robots to search centuries-old shipwrecks, when they stumbled on something even more unusual.
The deep discoverer robot approached what they expected to be a shipwreck 6,000 feet under the Gulf of Mexico, and instead they saw a volcano!
“They weren’t shipwrecks, but two extrusions of asphalt onto the seafloor,” William Keeney, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said.
Basically, asphalt squeezed through the ocean floor, and hardened into what the researchers are calling “tar lilies.”
“These are kind of unique,” Keeney said, “In that they’ve split open and formed a flower structure.”
It’s hard to tell in the video, but these tar lilies are a lot bigger than they look — 20 feet wide and 10 feet tall — and serve as homes for marine organisms.
“The deep sea is normally very, very barren, it’s practically a desert,” Thomas Heathman, a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M at Galveston, said. “Any sort of hard structure that’s sunk towards the bottom, you see all sorts of life congregating to these sites.”
Similar volcanoes have been found off the coast of California and West Africa, but this was a first for the area off Galveston’s coast.
“[It’s] very unique,” Keeney said, “and has not been seen in this part of the Gulf ever before.”
Just goes to show how much is left to discover underneath the ocean’s surface — there’s a whole world just waiting to be explored.