Data from NASA satellites reveals that one of the most active submarine volcanoes in the south-west Pacific is entering a new period of intense activity.
And amazingly, the hot, acidic waters around Kavachi are home to a thriving population of sharks.
The hammerheads and silky sharks are seemingly unaffected by the hostile temperatures and acidity, remaining close to the volcano despite its regular eruptions.
“The idea of there being large animals like sharks hanging out and living inside the [crater] of the volcano conflicts with what we know about Kavachi, which is that it erupts,” Brennan Phillips, a biological oceanography PhD student at the University of Rhode Island, explained in the National Geographic documentary “Sharkcano”.
Satellite imagery captured by NASA’s Landsat-9 on May 14 shows that Kavachi is in a highly active phase – but the sharks are still happily swimming around it.
When the colony was discovered in 2015, ocean engineer Brennan Phillips said: “When it’s erupting, there’s no way anything could live in there.
"That’s what makes discovering these animals down inside the volcano so perplexing. They’re living in a place where they could ‘die at any moment,’ so how do they survive?”
He added: "It's very turbid, so the water is very cloudy. None of these things are good for fish."
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But the cloudy volcanic waters are rich in nutrients, making it an attractive habitat for sea life.
“We see it all the time, where even just on the surface, there are people in cities built around volcanoes, or there’s this volcanic mouse species that like to live around other sorts of volcanoes in different parts of the world,” volcano data researcher Kadie Bennis told the New York Post.
“So it’s completely normal for there to be sharks and other marine life around underwater volcanoes since it’s also just contributing to the ecosystem that way.”
Dr. Michael Heithaus of Florida International University told Newsweek that undersea volcanoes are an essential part of the sharks’ world.
“It isn’t just about active volcanoes,” he said. “It’s about the habitat they create out in the middle of the ocean… If there hadn’t been volcanoes in certain areas there would be no reefs or no land.
"That would mean that the species of sharks that need those habitats couldn’t live in those areas without the presence of a volcano.”
He added: “Where you have lots of food you tend to have lots of sharks, if there isn’t too much fishing to reduce their populations.”
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