Ocean explorers have found a natural volcanic structure deep underwater that has the appearance of a mythical man-made road.
The underwater structure was discovered by marine scientists aboard the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus, who used a remotely operated vehicle to observe underwater structures called seamounts, mountains formed by the volcanic activity.
Specifically, their mission, called the Luʻuaeaahikiikekumu Expedition, is to survey the Liliʻuokalani Ridge seamounts in Hawaii. Their goal is to investigate a split in the seamount trail, which has scientists puzzled. The origin of the thousands of seamounts in the central and western Pacific region is not yet fully understood.
The scientists are documenting their research live, which includes streaming video footage of remote vehicles sent to the sea floor. In a clip, posted to YouTube, the scientists are seen observing geological formations and picking up rocks with a robotic arm .
At one point, the scientists come across a pattern of cracks in the seafloor that strongly resembles an artificial brick road with distinct rectangular blocks separated from each other by straight lines and right angles. The formation stands out sharply from the relatively shapeless seafloor that surrounds it.
One of the scientists says, “This is the road to Atlantis!” Another calls it “the yellow brick road” from the children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
The most likely answer is that the rock formation is actually “an example of ancient active volcanic geology” according to the video description posted by the E/V Nautilus YouTube channel.
“Atop Nootka Seamount, the team spotted a ‘dry lake bed’ formation, now identified as a fractured flow of hyaloclastite rock – a volcanic rock formed during high-energy eruptions where numerous fragments of rock settle on the seabed.”
The description adds that the “unique” pattern of fractures in the rock that gives it its cobblestone formation is likely the result of repeated heating and cooling over time due to multiple volcanic eruptions.
The underwater “road” isn’t the only notable discovery by the E/V Nautilus team so far this year. In March, they released a clip, which can be seen at the top of this article, of a “toothy” anglerfish clinging to rocks more than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) deep.
“Aw, look at its little face,” one of the scientists says as the remote-controlled vehicle zooms in on the animal to reveal its sharp teeth and spiky exterior.
“This anglerfish (Sladenia sp.), first identified as a batfish, was first recorded on video at over 1,000 meters deep and has hands down the coolest facial expression underwater,” says the description of the video.