UNDERWATER footage has captured what scientists are jokingly calling the “road to Atlantis” at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
The unusual formation – which looks like a cobbled pathway – was spotted last month by the deep-sea exploration vessel Nautilus.
A remote-controlled craft operated by the team at nonprofit The Ocean Exploration Trust was 1,000m below the surface at the time.
A live stream of the trip in an area near Hawaii called Liliʻuokalani Ridge was uploaded to YouTube on April 29.
During the clip, which has garnered a million views, scientists on board Nautilus can be heard marvelling at their find in real-time.
They excitedly liken the formation to the “yellow brick road” seen in The Wizard of Oz. They also describe it as a “road to Atlantis”.
While it may look like a brick walkway leading to the mythical sunken city, the structure has far simpler origins.
It’s actually the result of ancient volcanic activity that left behind fragments of rock in its wake.
The video was recorded at Nootka Seamount, an ancient volcano within Papahānaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
“At the summit of Nootka Seamount, the team spotted a ‘dried lake bed’ formation,” The Ocean Exploration Trust said.
It added that the team had now identified the structure as “a fractured flow of hyaloclastite rock (a volcanic rock formed in high-energy eruptions where many rock fragments settle to the seabed).”
“The unique 90-degree fractures are likely related to heating and cooling stress from multiple eruptions at this baked margin.”
Nautilus is exploring uncharted regions of the deep sea in a bid to make discoveries in biology and archaeology.
The vessel is crewed by 17 people including scientists who operated its various research instruments.
These include remotely-operated underwater craft loaded with high-definition cameras and the ability to collect seafloor samples.
“Our exploration of this never-before-surveyed area is helping researchers take a deeper look at life on and within the rocky slopes of these deep, ancient seamounts,” the trust said.
“Scientists are studying the microbial communities residing within the ferromanganese crusts found over rock surfaces and how the characteristics of the crusts vary from region to region in ocean basins as well the microorganisms that live on and within them.
“These studies will help provide baseline information on the living communities of seamounts which can inform management and conservation measures.”
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