Return to Oz? Follow the underwater ‘Yellow Brick Road’ near Hawaii

Scientists find a 'Yellow Brick Road' by Liliʻuokalani Ridge Seamounts using the E/V Nautilus
Scientists find a 'Yellow Brick Road' by Liliʻuokalani Ridge Seamounts
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Scientists on the exploration vessel Nautilus, follow an underwater ‘Yellow Brick Road’ near north Hawaii, while surveying the Liliʻuokalani ridge within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) – one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world, larger than all US national parks. Currently, 97% of the seafloor below 3000 m depth in the PMNM and Pacific Remote Islands is unmapped.

According to the video description:

“What may look like a “yellow brick road” to the mythical city of Atlantis is really an example of ancient active volcanic geology! Our Corps of Exploration have witnessed incredibly unique and fascinating geological formations while diving on the Liliʻuokalani Ridge within Papahānaumokuakea Marine National Monument. At the summit of Nootka Seamount, the team spotted a “dried lake bed” formation, now IDed as a fractured flow of hyaloclastite rock (a volcanic rock formed in high-energy eruptions where many rock fragments settle to the seabed). The unique 90-degree fractures are likely related to heating and cooling stress from multiple eruptions at this baked margin. Throughout the seamount chain, the team also sampled basalts coated with ferromanganese (iron-manganese) crusts from across different depths and oxygen saturations as well as an interesting-looking pumice rock that almost resembled a sponge. 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. Scientists are studying the microbial communities residing within the ferromanganese crusts found over rock surfaces and how the characteristics of the crusts vary from region to region in ocean basins as well the microorganisms that live on and within them. These studies will help provide baseline information on the living communities of seamounts which can inform management and conservation measures.”

The expedition provides 24 hour live footage and the researchers recently published a video on YouTube, capturing the exact moment they happened upon the ‘Yellow Brick Road. You can hear them talking in the background:

“What is that?”

“It’s the road to Atlantis.”

“The yellow brick road?”

“I feel like we are out by Mount Vesuvius.”

“This is bizarre.”

“Are you kidding me? This is crazy.”

E/V Nautilus is exploring unknown regions of the ocean seeking out new discoveries in biology, geology, and archaeology. Read more about it here.

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I am a Chartered Environmentalist from the Royal Society for the Environment, UK and co-owner of DoLocal Digital Marketing Agency Ltd, with a Master of Environmental Management from Yale University, an MBA in Finance, and a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics. I am passionate about science, history and environment and love to create content on these topics.