New volcano discovered in the Barents Sea

Meet the Borealis Mud Volcano! The volcano is about 400 meters deep and is quite active; it constantly spews out mud, liquids and gases.

Scientists discovered the volcano during an expedition to the Barents Sea. With the help of a submarine, they scoured the seabed. To then encounter the active mud volcano in the southern part of the Barents Sea, about 130 kilometers from Bear Island (which forms the southernmost tip of Spitsbergen).

In a crater
The researchers have named the volcano Borealis Mud Volcano. The Borealis mud volcano is located at a depth of about 400 meters, in the heart of a 300-meter-wide and 25-meter-deep crater. That crater is probably the result of a massive eruption that took place about 18,000 years ago and released huge amounts of methane.

Small volcano
The volcano itself is about 7 meters wide and has a height of 2.5 meters. However, that small size does not prevent the volcano from making itself heard; the Borealis mud volcano is fully active. For example, it constantly spews out fluids rich in methane. “Witnessing such an undersea mud eruption reminds me how ‘alive’ our planet is,” said researcher Giuliana Panieri.

To live
The area around the volcano is certainly alive. In the crater in which it is located, sea anemones, sponges, starfish, coral and crustaceans can be found. The researchers also encountered tube worms and extensive mats made up of bacteria. “During this expedition, we discovered that these craters are unique shelters that protect fragile marine life, such as coral and sponges, from human influences, such as trawling,” says co-author Beckett Colson.

Deep sediments
In addition to life around the mud volcano, scientists also find the volcano and what it spews very interesting. And because the mud volcano can tell us more about what can be found and what happens deep under that volcano. For example, mud volcanoes mainly spew water and fine sediments that come from a depth of several hundred meters to even several kilometers.

The Borealis mud volcano is not the first mud volcano to be discovered in Norwegian waters. In 1995, researchers discovered the only other mud volcano in Norwegian waters; the Håkon Mosby mud volcano. This volcano is located at a depth of 1250 meters, on the seabed south of Spitsbergen. And it’s certainly possible that more mud volcanoes await discovery in the area, Panieri says. “We certainly do not rule out the possibility that other mud volcanoes will be discovered in the Barents Sea.”

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