Science / Medicine : Observatory to Study Volcano

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Scientists plan to install a $4-million observatory on an underwater volcano, complete with cameras, microphones and seismometers to monitor the gradual birth of the next Hawaiian island.

University of Hawaii researchers hope the Hawaiian Undersea Geo-Observatory will be in place on Loihi seamount within two years, using its instruments to study earthquakes and eruptions, geology and geophysics professor Fred K. Duennebier said last week.

“It’s a good idea to monitor undersea volcanoes,” said Bob Tilling, a U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist. “More than half the world’s volcanoes are on the sea floor. The challenge is to capture one of these erupting because we haven’t done that yet.”

Loihi is a rugged, steep-sided submarine volcano about 22 miles southeast of the island of Hawaii. It rises about 11,200 feet above the surrounding sea floor. Its cratered summit is about 3,300 feet beneath the surface of the Pacific, Duennebier said.


Volcanologists are certain it is active but haven’t actually observed an eruption. Intense earthquake activity suggests eruptions occurred in 1986, 1988 and early this year, Duennebier said.