'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 (opens in new tab) on NASA's Earth Observatory website.

Its unusual moniker, "sharkcano," is a nod to the Solomon Islands' two species of sharks, according to (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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."

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

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, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, 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 (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. 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