Seamounts – The mountains that you cannot see


We have discovered thousands of previously uncharted underwater mountains, which are also known as seamounts. They are included in the most detailed map of the ocean floor ever produced.

They were found by a team led by David Sandwell and Brook Tozer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. Their new topographical map has uncovered more than 5000 new seamounts and possibly as many as 10,000. The exact number still needs to be confirmed, as they have not been counted individually yet.

These “seamounts” – a mountain rising from the sea floor that does not reach sea level –  were found analysing the results of satellite monitoring. There might yet end up being ore than 10,000 such mountains. This information could be used to make predictions about future climate change and tsunamis. Though much it will probably excite others who wish to focus on mining. 

In 2005, a US nuclear submarine crashed into a seamount near Guam. So despite the wide knowledge and scope of the American government there was still a blind spot in their knowledge of the ocean. In two years time Nasa will launch a satellite specifically designed for such work – Swot (surface water ocean topography) and  probably thousands more seamounts will be discovered.

At the same time, the United Nations-backed Seabed 2030 initiative, has been set up to create a high-resolution map of the underwater environment alike to existing efforts to map the land.


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