URI scientists find volcanic craters off Grenada
Kick 'em Jenny's siblings nearby
Narragansett, RI -- March 26, 2003 -- After ten days of intense research, scientists have discovered three volcanic craters and two cones near the Kick em Jenny submarine volcano. Under a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a joint team of scientists from the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO), the University of the West Indies (UWI), and NOAA conducted a detailed oceanographic survey and sampling of the volcano earlier this month. Preliminary findings were revealed at a press conference on Saturday in St. Georges, Grenada.
The scientists were unable to confirm that these craters were in fact separate "live" volcanoes. "We know of no historical eruptions from these craters," said project chief scientist Dr. Haraldur Sigurdsson (GSO). "I suspect that they may be extinct. We will use chemical analysis of the rocks to tell whether these are separate volcanoes or not. If the rocks from the new craters are of the same chemistry as Kick em Jenny, then they are being fed from the same source. We will need to investigate this further." One of the volcanoes has tentatively been named "Kick em Jack."
Kick 'em Jenny is located 8 kilometers north of Grenada and provides scientists with a unique natural laboratory to study the activity at a shallow submarine volcano that will one day emerge to form a new volcanic island. It is the only "live" submarine volcano in the West Indies known to scientists and has erupted at least 12 times since 1939. The last major eruption was in December 2001. It is the most intensively monitored volcano in the eastern Caribbean and probably the most intensively monitored submarine volcano in the world.
Although Kick em Jenny has been surveyed at least eleven times since 1962, this cruise was the most detailed study to date. The scientists worked continuously on board NOAAs flagship vessel R/V Ronald H. Brown using state of the art equipment to conduct multi-disciplinary research which included the examination of aspects of submarine eruption style, magmatic evolution, hazards, influence on biological activity, and potential hydrothermal mineralization.
Aside from the new craters, scientists also discovered that Kick em Jenny was continuously releasing gas bubbles. This finding confirms previous beliefs that the volcano is actively degassing. This degassing can occur during or between eruptions, and it can significantly lower the density of the water, thereby posing a serious danger to shipping.
"For almost two years we have been working with the Grenadian government to enforce a 1.5km exclusion zone around the summit of Kick em Jenny, but it continues to be ignored primarily by pleasure boats," remarked Professor John Shepherd, head of the Seismic Research Unit at the University of the West Indies. "This is a serious danger."
In addition to the geology, scientists also collected impressive biological samples from the volcano. GSO biological oceanographer Dr. Karen Wishner commented that "there is quite a special biological community which is significant not just to Grenada but to international science because these are the first shallow vent communities found." Shallow submarine active craters, such as Kick em Jenny, provide a unique biological environment, and it is quite possible to find life forms here that cannot be found elsewhere in the world.
The principal investigators on the cruise were Dr. Haraldur Sigurdsson (GSO), Dr. Steve Carey (GSO), Dr. John Shepherd (UWI), and Dr. Doug Wilson (NOAA). The scientists added that they had collected much more data than expected and hoped to publish their findings before the end of the year. They also hope to conduct further research on the volcano.
Other members of the expedition from the URI Graduate School of Oceanography included marine biologist David Smith and graduate students Dwight Coleman, Scott Lundin, and Andrew Staroscik.
Sigurdsson ended by commenting that "we continue to be amazed and puzzled by this volcano. We are thankful to the people of Grenada for allowing us to conduct this study, and we hope to find additional funding for further research."
A daily log with images from the cruise can be found at www.uwiseismic.com. The Seismic Research Unit is the agency responsible for monitoring earthquakes and volcanoes throughout the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean.