Discovery of a Magnificent Coral Forest!

Let’s explore underwater today. Volcanoes in particular.

Microscope view of a viper fish and a bristlenose. Dupreez/Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Microscope view of a viper fish and a bristlenose. Dupreez/Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Just off the coast of Vancouver Island is Canada’s largest underwater volcano. Called Explorer Seamount, it sits on the Explorer Ridge which is a tectonic spreading centre that separates the Pacific and Explorer plates.

The Explorer plate is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire which is a huge 40,000 kilometer horseshoe shape that contains 450 underwater volcanoes – more than 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes!

A team from Fisheries and Oceans Canada recently explored the area of the Explorer Seamount which is located about one kilometer below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

The expedition is only the second time scientists have seen the volcano and, this time, they were even more blown away by their findings.

Launching the drop camera, BOOTS, at Explorer Seamount. Dupreez/Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Launching the drop camera, BOOTS, at Explorer Seamount. Dupreez/Fisheries and Oceans Canada

The Explorer Seamount is already known to be home to a large field of glass sponges (check this point here to read more about these fascinating creatures). This time, they found a thriving coral forest.

Scientists found, by way of a deep sea submersible remotely operated vehicle, an incredible variety and density of coral species all living together.

They figure it’s because of the volcano’s shape. Rather than the conical shape of what we typically imagine a volcano to be, Explorer Seamount is rough terrain with ridges, valleys, tunnels, and pinnacles so it supports a variety of life forms.

“The corals are all mixed together,” lead scientist Tammy Norgard told the Vancouver Sun.

“On a single rock you can find five species of coral. They are branching corals up to half a metre high and there is one coral and another then a big sponge, it’s amazingly dense.”

 If you’d like to check out some of the footage, you can do so by clicking here.

We’re so excited about this discovery. It’s nice to hear good news about our precious oceans and give your kids’ great ideas for their next science fair project!