World

RI, US team find volcano,
sea creatures near Sulawesi

Indonesian and American scientists on a joint expedition to explore the ocean depths near the Sangihe-Talaud Islands of North Sulawesi have discovered an undersea volcano and several new deep-sea creatures.

“We’ve found three mount-like structures in addition to one volcano,” said Sugiarta Wirasantosa, the expedition’s Indonesian science team coordinator.

The volcano showed hydrothermal activity and was spurting hot water, said Sugiarta, who is also a Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry official.

The three unconfirmed mount-like structures, which indicate previous geological activity, may be inactive volcanoes, Sugiarta said.

The scientists have also identified living creatures in addition to the undersea volcano, he added.

“There are also lots of living creatures, such as crustaceans, fish and coral. I think they are exotic because this is the first time I have ever seen such species,” Sugiarta said.

The discoveries were all made in the ocean depths west of the Kawio Islands, Sugiarta added.

The discovery of undersea life in the area proves the presence of organisms that can live under “extreme conditions”, said Anang Nugroho, the Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Ministry’s head of international and institutional cooperation.

“These creatures can live under very high pressure and low temperatures and may lead to developments which can help other creatures to survive in extreme environments through genetic engineering,” he said.

The expedition, which began on June 24 and is expected to continue for a month, involves 32 Indonesian scientists and 12 US scientists from different fields.

Using two vessels — the Okeanos Explorer from the US and the Baruna Jaya IV from Indonesia — the scientists are trying to uncover mysteries 5,000 meters beneath the sea.

The expedition also aims to advance knowledge of tsunami formation and development through high-resolution mapping of the ocean floor, which will allow scientists to develop more accurate
models to forecast earthquake-spawned waves.

The expedition will also provide new information on deep ocean volcanically-derived gasses, such as carbon dioxide, that have a role in climate, says an expedition scientist.

“It’s very much like solving a puzzle,” said Jim Holden, a US microbiologist from the University of Massachusetts.

Indonesian and US scientists want to inspire teachers to create a greater awareness of marine issues in students.

The US has developed an expedition-specific curriculum in both Indonesian and English to encourage more classroom discussions of the mostly-unexplored ocean depths.

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