Popping Rocks

Not by Fire but by Ice



 Updated 13 November 2005      


Popping rocks reveal multiple underwater 
volcanoes off northern Mexico

– 27 Oct 2005 - “Noisy popping rocks hauled up from the deep Pacific seafloor off northern Mexico appear to be from a very young undersea volcano, say U.S. and Mexican geologists.

"People don't know how many volcanoes there are off the coast here," said Dana Vukajlovich, one of the chief scientists on the cruise, organized by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California , San Diego .

“The rocks pop because they contain pressurized pockets of gases that had bubbled out of the rock when it was molten and erupting from a submarine volcano, explained Vukajlovich. 

"It's kind of like the sound of ice cracking in water," said Vukajlovich, describing the racket made by spontaneous explosions of the rocks when they were brought aboard the Roger Revelle research vessel  in early October.

“Unlike ice in water, however, the rocks were was as loud as firecrackers, she said. "You could hear it over the sound of the machinery on deck." There were even small pieces of the rocks flying off, she said.

"They're pretty rare," said geochemist David Graham of Oregon State University of the few sites where popping rocks have been found worldwide. "They're typically found on relatively slow-spreading Mid-Atlantic Ridges."

“That's an undersea rift zone where the crust of the Earth is being pulled in opposite directions and there are many volcanoes spewing out molten rock to fill the gap.

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