A team of researchers were astonished to find an odd geological feature that they declared looks like “the road to Atlantis” in the middle of an unexplored part of the Pacific Ocean last month.
The oceanographers, who set out aboard the EV Nautilus research vessel in April as part of the Ocean Exploration Trust, have been sharing their findings as they happen via a 24/7 live stream of the boat. The work is part of an expedition called Luʻuaeaahikiikekumu (Luʻu-a-ea-a-hiki-i-ke-kumu) that aims to explore the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM), a U.S. marine conservation area in the North Pacific Ocean outside of Hawaii. Only 3 percent of the seafloor of the area has been mapped, and researchers hope to build on existing maps and bring eager viewers along for the ride.
On one particular stream last week, the team came upon a series of geological formations with 90-degree fractures that looked like a paved road far below the ocean’s surface. The researchers were floored.
“It’s the road to Atlantis,” one scientist can be heard saying in a live stream. “That’s a really unique structure,” another said.
“This is the yellow brick road,” a third said.
“Are you kidding me? This is crazy,” yet another researcher can be heard exclaiming on the stream.
What the team actually saw through deep sea cameras was not, in fact, a road to Atlantis, but something much simpler: volcanic rock likely fractured over the course of heating and cooling from nearby eruptions, according to the YouTube caption that accompanied the stream. Between moments of admiration, the team grabbed still shots of the structure before moving along.
The formation was spotted at the summit of Nootka Seamount—an underwater mountain formed by volcanic activity—around 1,029 meters below the surface of the ocean, the video description reads. According to the stream’s YouTube caption, the team identified the rock as hyaloclastite, a type of glassy rock formed through the cooling of lava that’s come into contact with water or ice.
“Our exploration of this never-before-surveyed area is helping researchers take a deeper look at life on and within the rocky slopes of these deep, ancient seamounts,” the caption reads.
It’s one of countless findings the team, who react live on YouTube with a level of passion that is truly inspiring to watch from afar, have spotted thousands of feet below, including sea pigs, sea stars noshing on coral, and dancing sea cucumbers.
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