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Gravity anomalies reveal an underwater mountain three times taller than the tallest skyscraper

Researchers have discovered four giant seamounts rising above the seafloor around South America using “gravity anomalies” emanating from these massive seamounts. The highest rises more than 2.6 km above the bottom – this is three times higher than the tallest skyscraper.

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Scientists aboard the Schmidt Institute of Oceanography’s research vessel Falkor recently discovered and mapped this quartet of seamounts 460-600 km off the coast of Peru and Chile during an expedition in the Eastern Pacific Ocean from Costa Rica to Chile.

The heights of the three Peruvian peaks were 1591, 1644 and 1873 meters, respectively. But the largest seamount found off the coast of Chile rises 2,681 meters above the seabed, rising to almost one and a half kilometers from the surface. For comparison, the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, is 828 m high, and the Empire State Building is 380 m high.

 

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The surface area of the highest peak is about 450 square kilometers.

 

Studying gravity anomalies is just a fancy way of saying that we were looking for high spots on the map, and when we found them, we found these huge seamounts.

 

— John Fulmer, Lead Expedition Technician

 

Last year, the same research team found another giant seamount, almost twice the height of the Burj Khalifa. But there are also larger underwater peaks.

The largest seamount is technically the dormant volcano Mauna Kea in Hawaii, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. It rises almost 4,205 m above sea level, and its total height from its base on the ocean floor is about 10,211 m.

 

Scientists estimate that there are up to 100,000 seamounts scattered across the world’s oceans, but only a small fraction of them have been explored. More than half of these supposed underwater peaks are believed to be in the Pacific Ocean.

 

Seamounts are often called “biological hotspots” by marine researchers. Such structures provide a solid substrate for immobile creatures such as corals and sponges to attach to. They also cause deep nutrients to rise closer to the surface, which attracts larger marine life, including crustaceans, fish, cephalopods and sharks. This makes seamounts extremely important marine habitats.

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