A real life sharkcano? Ocean engineer Brennan Phillips led a team to the remote Solomon Islands in search of hydrothermal activity. They found plenty of activity—including sharks in a submarine volcano. The main peak of the volcano, called Kavachi, was not erupting during their expedition, so they were able to drop instruments, including a deep-sea camera, into the crater. The footage revealed hammerheads and silky sharks living inside, seemingly unaffected by the hostile temperatures and acidity.
Phillips said, “You never know what you’re going to find. Especially when you are working deep underwater. The deeper you go, the stranger it gets.” They knew they would see interesting geology but weren’t sure about the biology. “No one has ever looked in the deep sea there, period. No one’s been out to anywhere in the Solomon Islands and gone deeper than a few hundred meters or deeper than a scuba diver has gone, really. So we were very excited. We thought there was a lot of potential.”
Normally, the deep-sea cameras are programmed to film underwater for several hours. The team felt like that was a bit too risky inside a submarine volcano, so the camera was only at the bottom of the crater for an hour. The footage has to be downloaded and reviewed after the camera returns to the surface. As Phillips explained, “One of the videos from inside the main caldera of Kavachi shows some jellyfish hanging out. They seem to be there naturally. And then we see some snappers and some small fish … and then sharks start coming after the camera. Sharks are cool in their own right—all of them are—but a hammerhead is particularly neat looking. And they’re in there, in numbers, inside the volcano! Now I want to spend years trying to study that and why that is the case.”
The National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program supported the expedition.
Read more about Brennan’s research in the Solomon Islands: http://goo.gl/Jpbs52
PRODUCER/EDITOR: Carolyn Barnwell
VIDEOGRAPHER: Alex DeCiccio
DROP CAM FOOTAGE: NG Remote Imaging
SERIES PRODUCER: Jennifer Shoemaker
GRAPHICS: Alex Wenchel