The Havre submarine volcano is more than 2,000 feet (650 meters) below sea level and is the site of the largest underwater eruption of the past century

Biggest volcanic eruption in 100 years went unnoticed 

The biggest underwater eruption of the last century took place 600 miles (1,000km) off the coast of New Zealand, scientists have found.

The discovery was made after an airline passenger saw a strange substance spreading across the Pacific Ocean in 2012.

At the time, scientists identified the material as pumice, a volcanic substance which floats.

However, it has taken six years for researchers to understand the scale of the eruption with the help of remotely-operated deep search robots.

The findings have been described as a ‘scientific goldmine’ and could increase our understanding of how magma rises from the earth’s crust to the surface

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The Havre submarine volcano is more than 2,000 feet (650 meters) below sea level and is the site of the largest underwater eruption of the past century

The Havre submarine volcano is more than 2,000 feet (650 meters) below sea level and is the site of the largest underwater eruption of the past century

THE HAVRE ERUPTION

More than 80 per cent of the volcanoes on Earth are located on the sea-floor.

The raft that formed as a result of the Havre eruption was made of pumice, a light and porous volcanic rock.

Experts calculate that most (roughly 75 per cent) of the expelled material floated away within the giant pumice raft.

This suggests that information from undersea deposits cannot always be used to accurately reconstruct eruption sizes.

The majority of the material involved in the violent eruption formed the raft and then dispersed into the Pacific Ocean, landing on Micronesian island beaches and the East Australian seaboard.

The researchers said that the evidence from Havre shows that the way submarine volcanic eruptions are analysed in the future should be re-considered as very little material returns to the site.

The deposit, which travelled across 150 sq m of sea, came from the Havre volcano.

A team of researchers from the University of Tasmania found that the eruption was the result of a ‘massive rupture’ and that lava flowed from 14 different vents.

The Havre volcano was discovered in 2002 and is located on the sea bed a mile below the surface (1,600 metres).

The team used submersibles, including remotely operated and automated vehicles, to map, observe and collect samples from the volcano.

Beneath the ocean, they found large areas of contrasting rough and smooth terrain.

They also discovered stacks of delicate pumice stones scattered around the caldera, the large cauldron-like depression which forms following a volcanic eruption.

These stones formed precariously balanced towers that gently settled down to rest on the ocean floor.

Speaking to New Zealand-based site Stuff, Dr Rebecca Carey, the study’s lead author, said: ‘We knew it was a large scale eruption, approximately equivalent to the biggest eruption we’ve seen on land in the 20th Century.

‘Having the pre-eruption map of Havre volcano allowed us to know exactly what and where the new eruption products were on the submarine edifice.

‘This event is a scientific gold-mine as for the first time there are quantitative constraints on submarine eruption dynamics, and the role of the ocean in modulating those dynamics.’

More than 80 per cent of the volcanoes on Earth are located on the sea-floor.

The areas in red are sections of the sea floor that erupted during the 2012 event. Fourteen separate aligned vents erupted lava from the mantle of the Earth which formed the island if pumice

The areas in red are sections of the sea floor that erupted during the 2012 event. Fourteen separate aligned vents erupted lava from the mantle of the Earth which formed the island if pumice

The team used submersible machines, including a remotely operated vehicle and an automated underwater vehicle, to map, observe and collect samples from the Havre volcano

The team used submersible machines, including a remotely operated vehicle and an automated underwater vehicle, to map, observe and collect samples from the Havre volcano

The raft that formed as a result of the eruption was made of pumice, a light and porous volcanic rock.

The scientists calculate that most (roughly 75 per cent) of the expelled material floated away within the giant pumice raft.

This suggests that information from undersea deposits cannot always be used to accurately predict eruption sizes.

The majority of the material involved in the violent eruption formed the raft and then dispersed into the Pacific Ocean, landing on Micronesian island beaches and the East Australian seaboard.

The majority (80 per cent) of the material involved in the violent eruption formed the raft and then dispersed into the Pacific Ocean but a small amount which fell back to the sea floor and devastated the surrounding biological communities

The majority (80 per cent) of the material involved in the violent eruption formed the raft and then dispersed into the Pacific Ocean but a small amount which fell back to the sea floor and devastated the surrounding biological communities

The remotely operated vehicle Jason (which is about the size of a large car) is shown here landing on the seafloor at Havre submarine volcano at nearly 3,000 feet (900 meters) below sea level

The remotely operated vehicle Jason (which is about the size of a large car) is shown here landing on the seafloor at Havre submarine volcano at nearly 3,000 feet (900 meters) below sea level

The researchers said that the evidence from Havre shows that the way submarine volcanic eruptions are analysed in the future should be re-considered, as very little material returns to the site.

Despite most of the material dissipating into the ocean, there was still a small amount which fell back to the sea floor and devastated the surrounding biological communities.

According to the authors of the study, there is considerable interest from within the scientific world in how different species recolonise a harsh environment.

The sea bed around the Havre caldera is a perfect case study for this phenomenon.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Science Advances.

The Havre subsea volcano is located 600 miles (1,000 km) off the coast of New Zealand's North island and 1 mile (1,600 metres) below sea-level

The Havre subsea volcano is located 600 miles (1,000 km) off the coast of New Zealand’s North island and 1 mile (1,600 metres) below sea-level

The researchers said that the evidence from Havre's 2012 eruption shows that the way submarine volcanic eruptions are analysed in the future

The researchers said that the evidence from Havre’s 2012 eruption shows that the way submarine volcanic eruptions are analysed in the future

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