Research Vessel off the west coast of the island El Hierro. Photo:Melissa Anderson, GEOMAR

Image of the month: July 2017

Research Vessel POSEIDON off El Hierro

In front of the picturesque backdrop of rocky slopes rising from the glassy water at the youngest but also geologically most active Canary Island El Hierro, the POSEIDON is dropping anchor on her working position. In the silence of the dusk nothing points to the natural power slumbering under the surface of the water.


In October 2011, after 500 years without any observed volcanic activity a submarine volcano erupted only two kilometers from the island. Doubts, the volcano could endanger the island and its inhabitants, led to comprehensive research projects.


The project VULCANO examines the physical and chemical changes of the gases and materials rising from the volcano since the eruption.


Within the scope of this project Spanish and German research teams investigated the seismic and volcanic activity of the volcano with Germany’s only manned submersible JAGO. The expedition should uncover regularities and patterns in the seismic activity to localize earthquakes and to recognize possible menaces early. With the submersible, researchers  had the possibility to see the volcano with their own eyes for the first time. Therefore they could specifically select suitable places for measurements to optimize the precision of the measurements.


The researches will help not only to estimate the potential menace off the rocky coasts El Hierros better, but also to provide  important findings concerning the effects of the climate change on the marine ecosystem. Submarine eruptions release large amounts of the gases, inter alia carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide which spread in the oceans. Projections of the measuring results on the global scale allow conclusions about the chemical changes in our oceans. Thus the underwater volcano helps us to better understand the effects the global change has on our seas, so the precipitous cliffs of El Hierro will continue dropping to a blue and clean sea.

More information:

Press release about expedition POS494

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In spring 2016 a team of researchers explored the submarine volcano off El Hierro. Photo: Maike Nicolai, GEOMAR

In spring 2016 a team of researchers explored the submarine volcano off El Hierro. Photo: Maike Nicolai, GEOMAR

With the submersible JAGO, researchers  had the possibility to see the volcano with their own eyes. Photo: Maike Nicolai, GEOMAR

With the submersible JAGO, researchers had the possibility to see the volcano with their own eyes. Photo: Maike Nicolai, GEOMAR

Prof. Juana Magdalena Santana Casiano (ULPGC) und Dr. Eugenio Fraile Nuez (IEO) tap gas and water samples after a JAGO dive. Photo: Maike Nicolai, GEOMAR

Prof. Juana Magdalena Santana Casiano (ULPGC) und Dr. Eugenio Fraile Nuez (IEO) tap gas and water samples after a JAGO dive. Photo: Maike Nicolai, GEOMAR