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Under Ice

Expedition yields first evidence of explosive volcanism on Arctic seafloor

A two-week cruise on an icebreaker to the top of the world last summer gave scientists a look at the aftermath of an event once thought impossible: a violent volcanic eruption on the deep-sea floor.

In 1999, a global network of seismic instruments detected the largest swarm of earthquakes ever to occur along the planet’s system of mid-ocean ridges, where tectonic plates spread to form new ocean crust. Several aspects of the recorded vibrations suggested that the quakes were generated by volcanic activity, says Robert A. Reves-Sohn, a geophysicist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

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