'Sharkcano' undersea volcano eruption spotted from space in satellite photo

A plume of discolored water surrounds the Kavachi Volcano in the Solomon Islands in this satellite image taken May 14, 2022.
A plume of discolored water surrounds the Kavachi Volcano in the Solomon Islands in this satellite image taken May 14, 2022. (Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.)

Superheated, acidic water surrounds an underwater volcano dubbed "sharkcano" in fresh imagery from the Landsat 9 satellite.

Discolored water is visible from space in the zone around Kavachi Volcano in the Solomon Islands, a Pacific island nation east of Papua New Guinea, in an image recently featured on NASA's Earth Observatory website.

Its unusual moniker, "sharkcano," is a nod to the Solomon Islands' two species of sharks, according to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The sharks appear quite tolerant to the acidic conditions, given that Kavachi is "one of the most active submarine volcanoes in the Pacific," as Goddard tweeted Sunday (May 22).

Related: Explosive underwater volcano eruption in Tonga spotted from space in satellite images

Kavachi is amid a tectonically active region, and nearby a subduction zone about 18 miles (30 kilometers) to the southwest, NASA's Earth Observatory said on May 14. The volcano's lavas can range from basaltic (magnesium and iron rich) to the more silica-rich andesitic.

Yet there is a lot of life present even amid the harsh conditions.

"Superheated, acidic water usually contain particulate matter, volcanic rock fragments, and sulfur," NASA's Earth Observatory added. "A 2015 scientific expedition to the volcano found two species of sharks, including hammerheads, living in the submerged crater. The researchers also found microbial communities that thrive on sulfur."

The volcano has been in nearly continuous eruption since its first recorded activity in 1939 and is known for creating temporary islands of debris that get washed away by the ocean. Residents nearby often see steam and ash, NASA said.

"The island is named for a sea god of the Gatokae and Vangunu peoples, and it is sometimes also referred to as Rejo te Kvachi, or 'Kavachi’s Oven'," the agency said.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace