Seamount Discovery by Center Scientists

On August 13, 2014, CCOM/JHC scientists aboard the R/V Kilo Moana, a swath (small water area twin hull) oceanographic research ship owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by the University of Hawaii, discovered a new seamount in the Pacific Ocean using a 12-kHz multi-beam echosounder. The scientists, led by Dr. James Gardner, have been mapping the ocean floor since Aug. 8, 2014 as part of the Center's NOAA-sponsored seafloor mapping research.

While enroute to map seafloor features targeted for investigation, the ship discovered a new unmapped seamount that was surveyed in its entirety (Figure 1). The Kilo Moana’s advanced mapping system uncovered the seamount, estimated to be more than 1100 m high, in the midst of a feature-rich stretch of seafloor approximately 5100 m deep. Underwater features are generally considered seamounts if they reach a height of at least 1000 m above the seafloor.


Figure 1 – Plain view of a CUBE 40-m resolution grid (2x vertical exaggeration) of the seafloor area surrounding the discovered seamount.


The as yet unnamed seamount is located approximately 300 km south-east of Jarvis Island, and has a conical shape with a 7-km diameter base and a maximum estimated slope of 23 degrees (Figure 2).


Figure 2 – 3D view of the SW side of the seamount with 23-degree slopes.


In its neighborhood there are several smaller topographical features with different shapes and scales (Figure 3).


Figure 3 - 3D view of the seamount area (SE point of view and 3.5x vertical exaggeration) showing two volcanoes, in the foreground, with the discovered seamount in the background.


The Kilo Moana is participating in the work of the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Task Force, a multi-agency project to delineate the outer limits of the U.S. continental shelf, mapping an area of the Pacific Ocean that is one of the least explored of the Earth's oceans