An uncharted mountain

It’s often said that we know more about the surface of the moon than the bottom of the oceans, and we recently learned first hand how true that is.

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An uncharted mountain

It’s often said that we know more about the surface of the moon than the bottom of the oceans, and we recently learned first hand how true that is.

First mate Fernando was on the bridge early one morning. He works the 4:00-8:00 bridge shifts (one every day, one every night). He’d checked the charts and there was nothing but deep ocean for hundreds of kilometers. The bottom was far out of range of our depth finder, but, as is normal among sailors, he left it on. 

Around 04:30 in the morning, he noticed it registering something. A faint signal growing stronger, then a clear steep slope towards the surface. He’d never seen anything like it. An uncharted underwater mountain – peaking safely far below us. Based on the chart we have it’s likely over 5,000 meters high. Exactly how deep the surrounding landscape is, and the shape of it beyond the peak, are still unknown, being beyond the range of our equipment.

We’ve contacted the government of Kiribati to let them know there’s an undocumented seamount nearby their country. They confirmed that it was unknown to them. We’ve also contacted the UK Hydrographic Office, and are waiting to hear back. We’re not sure if we get to name it. The crew would like to call it Rainbow Warrior, after our ship. 

Seamounts are important ocean features. Ocean currents carry nutrients from the deep up their slopes – supporting an abundance of sea life, including corals, fish and crustaceans. It’s only in recent decades that scientists have begun to understand the effects of these underwater geological features. Some think they may serve as oases for traveling ocean species.  Satellite research has recently identified many more seamounts (potentially including this one), but only a small percentage have been properly explored.  

Coming across an uncharted one is a reminder that despite all we know of the oceans, mysteries remain.