An underwater volcano in the southwest Pacific named Kavachi erupts pretty much constantly. NASA released some satellite photos earlier this year of a particularly impressive eruption that sent some stuff bubbling over the top of the water, but Kavachi is really just about always churning matter out from inside the earth. 

That makes investigating the inside of the volcano impossible most of the time. In 2015, however, scientists happened upon a rare pause in Kavachi’s binge vomiting, and so they took the opportunity to approach the volcano and peek inside. If you don't understand why they wanted to peek inside an underwater volcano, well, sorry, it sounds like you're not a scientist/adventurer. 

Divers went down to the crater and collected soil samples from outside it, so they could analyze what kind of bacteria managed to survive those conditions. Still, even with the volcano not currently erupting, they couldn’t dive right into the crater. Hot, corrosive water poured out of the volcano, and divers could feel it while still outside the volcano; diving in would surely melt them.

Instead of entering and dying, they dropped (highly resilient) cameras into Kavachi’s depths. And these cameras picked up evidence that plenty of life was surviving within the volcano without melting at all. They didn’t just spot more mats of microbes but snapper fish, predatory bluefin trevally, and two species of shark—the scalloped hammerhead and the silky shark

This water was as caustic as coffee at best and caustic as hydrochloric acid at worst, was clouded with sulfur and other gross particulate matter, and was quite hot (the first 5-meter drop saw a 13-degree rise in temperature, and it must have been hotter deeper, where more sharks lay). Still, these complex animals seemed to be doing just fine. Scientists fear the effects of even small temperature rises on ocean life, but this crew were pleasantly shocked by how well some ocean life manages to handle living in acid soup. 

This story made the news back in 2015 (we all used the word “sharkano” a lot), and then the team returned to the site a few years later in search of more footage. They brought more cameras, but when they dropped them into the volcano, they were well aware that the cameras might all simply get destroyed without capturing anything. That would not be a total loss, however. Said one scientist on the team, Brennan Phillips, “Our goal is to send instrumentation there to get meaningful data, but sometimes it’s really fun to just blow stuff up.”

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Top image: Alex DeCiccio, Oceanography

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