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El Hierro volcano
shield volcano 1500 m
Canary Islands (Spain), 27.63°N / -17.99°W
Current status: normal or dormant (1 out of 5)
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El Hierro volcano eruptions:
2012 (?) (probable second submarine eruption in June-July west of the island), 2011-12 (Oct-Mar, submarine eruption near La Restinga), 1793
Typical eruption style:
mainly effusive, basaltic fissure eruptions
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El Hierro volcano (Canary Islands) news & activity updates

Scientists publish first video of the active submarine volcano at El Hierro (Canary Islands)

Saturday Mar 17, 2012 16:04 PM | BY: T

Screenshot of the video taken at the southwestern flank of the main submarine cone at 170 m depth, showing what looks like round lava bombs (or pillow lava?)
Screenshot of the video taken at the southwestern flank of the main submarine cone at 170 m depth, showing what looks like round lava bombs (or pillow lava?)
Scientists from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) aboard the research vessel Atlantic Explorer have published the first videos of the underwater volcanic cone in the Sea of ​Las Calmas south of El Hierro. The videos, taken by an underwater robot during their latest campaign, show that the eruption is continuing, but also suggest that the summit is still at 120 m rather than the 88 m found during the previous research campaign just 2 weeks earlier.

In their press release, the scientists say that there is no "tremor" on the surface of the water, but a "shower of glowing stars" can be seen under water (note: probably, they refer to white ash and tephra particles floating as seen in the video). They conclude that the vent remains active, and generates a convecting column of hot water rising up to 40 m depth. Temperatures of over 60ºC were measured in the area where the robot could approach. Also, fish and other marine life could be seen in some videos proofing that life persists despite the eruption.

The preliminary results of the campaign are summarized as follows:
- For the first time, direct images of the new underwater volcano were obtained from locations at its southwestern flank and near the crater area (to 172 m). The vent itself seems to be at 120 m depth.
- The volcano continues to be active.
- Hot jets are formed from a vent at 120 m depth, forming convecting water cells reaching depths of about 40-60 m. On 13 March, the robot entered one of these cells and got caught in uncontrolled rotations while its thermal sensors showed a strong increase.
- Pyroclastic projections were observed to reaching about 40-50 m in height (i.e. the ejected pyroclasts reach depths of 80-70 m). Ejected bombs form (underwater) ballistic parabolic trajectories and fall back under gravity. Some of these pyroclastic seem to be large.
- During the dive on Wednesday (14 Mar), the southwest flank of the main cone was filmed. It has a steep slope and is composed mainly by large pyroclasts (see screenshot), some of which are similar to the hollow lava balloons that frequently reached the surface in the months of November and December.
- Finally, near the edge of the crater, at a depth of about 170m and under a rain of ash, a school of fish (amberjack possibly) was seen as well as smaller marine animals and closer to the surface, jellyfish.
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Links / Sources:
Previous news
Tuesday, Mar 13, 2012
A weak stain has been visible today above the submarine spot in the Las Calmas Sea south of La Restinga, and a jacuzzi occurred faint this morning at 07:30 am. Volcanic tremor seems to continue at constant, although minimal levels. This suggests that the eruption is indeed continuing. [more]
Friday, Mar 09, 2012
The results of the latest bathymetric mapping survey by the crew of the oceanographic research vessel Ramon Margalef show that the eruption is still continuing, and could still go on for a very long time. ... [more]
Tuesday, Mar 06, 2012
On 5 March, the Instituto Geografico wrote that the eruption that had started on 10 October 2011 has ended. ... [more]
Saturday, Mar 03, 2012
No immediate end of the eruption is in sight, although it continues at minimal intensity. Volcanic tremor has recovered to a weak and constant level, and occasionally one or two spots with stained water were observed on the sea surface. ... [more]

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