Taking Part in The Conversation: Using Sound to Uncover the Secrets of a Volcano

The crew meets

Santorini, with its gorgeous sunsets and blue waters, attracts around 2 million tourists per year. But what many people don’t know is that the island is an active volcano. In fact, in 1950, lava flowed from the island, and in 2012, the volcano caused a series of small earthquakes. This activity caused Dr. Emilie Hooft, an Associate Professor of Earth Sciences and the University of Oregon, to make a trip to Greece with the hopes of finding out a little more about the volcano. She wrote about her experience in her latest article on The Conversation.

Dr. Hooft and her crew set out to use sound equipment to listen to what was going on beneath the surface of the volcano. She did all of her work aboard the R/V Marcus Langseth, an American marine seismic ship, which is one of the few ships that contains the tools needed to listen to the deep insides of a volcano. “Our ‘active source seismic imaging’ method is like making a CAT-scan picture of the inside of the Earth. Instead of building an image using X-rays, though, we use sound waves generated by 36 heavy, metal canisters – called airguns – that are towed deep in the water behind the ship,” writes Hooft. “We have to use very accurate timing to measure how long it takes the sound energy to go through the different parts of the volcano. The energy from the sound source will travel more slowly through rocks that are broken or that are hot and contain magma.”

The team also took precautions to leave wildlife as unaffected as possible. Experienced biological observers were aboard to survey the tested areas for any endangered or sound-sensitive animals. If any were detected, Hooft’s team followed certain protocols to ensure they wouldn’t be disturbed.

So what did the crew find? The most interesting discovery according to Hooft was that “magma continues to accumulate directly beneath the column of disrupted rock – thousands of years after the explosion that originally created the caldera.” The weight of the broken rock, however, stops the magma from reaching the surface—at least, for now.

To read more about how the crew used sound technology to make discoveries about Santorini and the results, read the full article here: https://theconversation.com/we-probed-santorinis-volcano-with-sound-to-learn-whats-going-on-beneath-the-surface-114696