Eight new mountains beneath the sea
The Canary Islands have aroused scientific interest throughout history. There are many ancient references to them as a group of islands lost in the ocean, far from the known world beyond the Straits of Gibraltar. In the 19th century, several scientists suggested that their origin was volcanic, and much later, this idea was accepted.
The islands were formed during several volcanic cycles since the time of the dinosaurs. The eastern islands are said to have risen from the sea around 20 million years ago.
Now, in 2015, a few weeks ago the scientific team of the oceanographic campaign Drago 0511 made this amazing discovery and identified eight submarine mountains to the south west of the Canaries. They say that they are ancient islands, like a Canarian Atlantis. The biggest of these newly discovered islands is as tall as MountTeide!
According to the marine geologist from the Spanish Mining and Geological Institute, Luis Somoza, the discovery of these eight submarine mountains can be added to the five which scientists had already identified to the south of the Canaries, and it is assumed that they are the underwater grandfathers or predecessors of the Canaries as we know them. He said that some of these mountains formed islands which have now sunk by 300 metres.
This latest discovery took place after five years of detailed mapping expeditions of the deepest Canarian sea floors, and it shows that this area, south west of the islands, is the natural extension of the Canarian archipelago.
The peaks of these submarine mountains were found at depths of 300 to 4,000 metres. In some cases, their shapes resemble the actual shapes of Tenerife, La Gomera and El Hierro. Their biggest mountains are 35 to 90 kilometres long and the smallest are between 6 and 20. Somoza described how these ancient islands are over 3,500 metres high over the flat seabed, and when seen from those depths, they resemble looking at MountTeide from the coast.
They were formed by the same process as the Canaries were. A hot point beneath the islands created a partial fusion of the rocks in the Earth’s mantle and allowed magma to rise from the deepest sea floor. This happened millions of years ago and as the hot point moved or disappeared, these newly created volcanoes which went on to form submarine mountains or islands, progressively sank due to the cooling of the Earth’s crust. They describe this effect as similar to what happens if you remove a soufflé from the oven too quickly – it just sinks.
Luis Somoza added that the scientific team has sent its suggestions for essentially Canarian names for these islands to the International Hydrographic Commission. They are Drago, Bimbache, Ico, Pelicar, Malpaso, Tortuga, Infinito and Las Abuelas (the grandparents). The five already known underwater mountains were named by their British discoverers, and they are Las Hijas, Echo, The Paps, Drago and Tropic.
Six scientific expeditions have now been made into the deepest waters near the Canaries, on the ships Hespérides, Sarmiento de Gamboa and Miguel Oliver.