Scientists mapping the seafloor have discovered an underwater mountain twice as high as the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in international waters off Guatemala.
The mapping was done during a Schmidt Ocean Institute expedition in the Pacific Ocean.
The 1,600-meter (5,249-foot) seamount covers 14 square kilometers (5.41 square miles) and sits 2,400 meters (7,874 feet) below sea level.
Using the EM124 multibeam echosounder on the institute’s exploration and research vessel Falkor (too), the seafloor feature was discovered 84 nautical miles (155.6km) outside the Guatemalan Exclusive Economic Zone during a six-day crossing this summer from Puntarenas, Costa Rica, toward the East Pacific Rise.
The Schmidt Ocean Institute on-board crew included a GEBCO-trained hydrographic expert, who confirmed that the seamount is not in any seafloor bathymetric database.
Seamounts are biodiversity hotspots, providing surfaces for deep-sea corals, sponges and a host of invertebrates. According to NOAA Ocean Exploration, recent satellite-based estimates indicate there are more than 100,000 unexplored seamounts taller than 1,000 meters (3,281 feet).
With continued exploration and mapping of the deep sea, more accurate and higher-resolution maps will guide scientific research and future discoveries, while offering an improved understanding of geological processes.
According to SOI Executive Director Dr. Jyotika Virmani:
“A seamount over 1.5 kilometers tall which has, until now, been hidden under the waves really highlights how much we have yet to discover. A complete seafloor map is a fundamental element of understanding our Ocean so it’s exciting to be living in an era where technology allows us to map and see these amazing parts of our planet for the first time!”