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Underwater volcano creation to be studied

Feb. 16, 2011 at 7:03 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- A half-mile of rock retrieved from the seafloor is providing clues about how underwater volcanoes are created, U.S. scientists said.

Geoscientists recently completed an expedition to the Louisville Seamount Trail, a string of underwater volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean, the National Science Foundation said Wednesday in a release.

Scientists collected samples of sediments, basalt lava flows and other volcanic eruption materials to try to map the history of the ancient trail of volcanoes and determine whether hotspots that led to their creation moved over time.

"Finding out whether hotspots in Earth's mantle are stationary or not will lead to new knowledge about the basic workings of our planet," says Rodey Batiza, section head for marine geosciences in the NSF's Ocean Sciences Division.

During the expedition, scientists drilled 3,651 feet into the seafloor to recover 2,644 feet of volcanic rock, the NSF said.

"We sampled ancient lava flows and a fossilized algal reef," says Anthony Koppers of Oregon State University. "The samples will be used to study the construction and evolution of individual volcanoes."

Microbiologists will use the samples to study living microbial matter, population differences in microbes in the volcanic rock, overlying sediments and different kinds of lava flows, the NSF said. They also will also look for population patterns at various depths in the seafloor and compare them with seamounts of varying ages.

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