Sunday, 2 November 2014

Tamu Massif

The word 'volcano' stems from the Roman god of fire, Vulcan. Volcanoes can usually be found within the meeting points of tectonic plates, where the cracks in the earth's surface allow boiling hot ash, gas and magma to spill out into the atmosphere like steam from a giant kettle, and sometimes, cause mass havoc and destruction. Considering the power and potential for chaos that these volcanoes possess, it would be an apt question to ask: what is the world's largest volcano, and where can it be found?

75% of the earth's volcanoes can be found within a place known as the 'ring of fire'. This ring of fire is a 40,000 km (25,000 mile) horseshoe shape that engulfs the Pacific ocean, and in total, it contains 452 volcanoes. Contained within this ring of fire is the ex-largest volcano known to earth: Mauna Loa. Mauna Loa (literally translating as 'Long Mountain') is one of the five volcanoes that form the islands of Hawaii. It is so large that it has a whopping volume of 18,000 cubic miles, and if measured from base to top (considering that Mauna Loa starts deep under the ocean) it is actually taller than Mt. Everest. This is one considerably large volcano. However, as previously mentioned Mauna Loa is no longer the world's largest volcano. As terrifying at this may seem, there is a phenomenally larger volcano to be found under the ocean's surface, lurking in the deep like a giant sea-monster. This volcano has been sat patiently waiting for 145 million years, minding its own business, until on Thursday 5th September 2013 it was discovered.

Tamu Massif - pronounced (Ta-moo Ma-seef) - like most other volcanoes sits within the ring of fire, and can be found 1,600 km east of Japan. The previously stated Mauna Loa has an area of 5,000 sq km (1,900 sq miles), whereas Tamu Massif fills an area of 310,000 sq km (119,000 sq miles) - 63 times larger than Mauna Loa, and therefore roughly 64 times the size of Mt. Everest. The volcano is so vast that its size is estimated to be half to three-quarters that (dependent upon the source) of Olympus Mons - the largest volcano in the solar system, situated on Mars. To write it simply: Tamu Massif dwarfs Mauna Loa. Tamu Massif lies 2 km below the ocean's surface in the dark, mysterious waters of the deep open ocean. The roots of the volcano dig 18 miles into the earth's crust, like spindly fingers feeling for magma. It would be sensible to say that we hope the fingers of Tamu Massif never find a substantial amount of magma, otherwise there could be trouble for us all.

The recent discovery of Tamu Massif is also a poignant reminder of how little we actually know about earth; especially what lies within the oceans. Considering less than 10% of the oceans have been explored and mapped, this leaves the hugely daunting and equally exciting question, what else have we yet to discover?     

Tamu Massif sits 1,600 km off the east coast of Japan.

The 'ring of fire' in which 75% of the worlds volcanoes can be found. Including Tamu Massif and Mauna Loa.

Olympus Mons protruding from the surface of Mars. Olympus Mons is the largest known volcano in the entire solar system, and is roughly double the size of Tamu Massif.  

- Until the next Butterfly...