This is neither a shipwreck nor an ancient underwater city! First discovery of an asphalt volcano off Galveston, Texas



When we think of volcanoes, we generally think of beautiful and terrifying cone-shaped mountains spewing ash and hot glowing lava. But not all volcanoes are as majestic at first glance.

what is an asphalt volcano, first asphalt volcano discovered in the Gulf of Mexico may 2014, asphalt volcano galveston gulf of mexico, asphalt volcano texas may 2014, NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program
Asphalt volcano found off Galveston in Texas in the first asphalt volcano discovered in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

NOAA explorers recently made a surprising discovery off the coast of Galveston (April 24, 2014). The object they found wasn’t any shipwreck or lost ancient cities, but a giant tar ball or in more scientific wordings the solidified eruption from an underwater volcano of asphalt. 

What are asphalt volcano?

Asphalt volcanoes ooze gasses and thick, gooey oil into the water. The asphalt of these volcanoes is produced by the same processes that generate oil and gas, but it goes through a geological transformation. When oil erupts from a submarine volcano, it mixes with sediments and cools as it hits the water, resulting in huge ropey masses and mounds.

The first discovery of asphalt volcanoes was in 2004 when scientists on the German research vessel F/V Sonne reported asphalt volcanoes 10,000 feet deep in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Since then, more asphalt volcanoes have been found off the coast of Texas, California and West Africa.

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