In November 2014, Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor discovered a seamount, or underwater mountain, 28,500 feet (8,700 m) on the ocean floor off of Guam near the Mariana Trench. This week the mountain was officially named and accepted as Falkor Seamount by the International Hydrographic Organization and UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.
Namesake of the research vessel that discovered it, the Falkor Seamount is likely millions of years old, but went undiscovered until last year.
The mountain was found during an expedition to explore the biology and geology of the deepest part of our planet, the Mariana Trench. It was during this expedition that the 6,900 foot (2,100 m) high feature found 28,500 feet down was exposed in waters off of Guam in the Western Pacific Ocean.
With high- resolution multibeam mapping, scientists aboard R/V Falkor (named after the luck-dragon character in the famous novel and film, The Never Ending Story) were able to identify and extensively characterize the mountain.
“We hope that this is not the last of our discoveries”, said Leighton Rolley, Lead Marine Technician at Schmidt Ocean Institute.
“This was one of the most exhilarating cruises that I have ever participated on. Not only did we find Falkor Seamount, but we had several other surprises as well.”
It was during the same expedition that Schmidt Ocean Institute’s full ocean depth lander with tools and a camera on its platform, recorded the deepest fish known to science – a type of snailfish – some 26,722 feet (8,145 m) down.
“The fish was unknown to science, as was the nameless geological feature found near it,” Leighton said.
“This was an expedition of many firsts. It may be easy for a small deep-dwelling fish to evade our eyes and cameras, but how can a 10 mile long seamount remain unknown?”
“Much of the deep ocean still remains unexplored, and Schmidt Ocean Institute’s goal is to provide a sea-going research vessel to scientists at no cost, to help speed the pace of science.”
“When we discover seabed features the size of the Falkor Seamount that rises over 6,500 feet (2,000 m) from the seafloor, in an area we thought we understood, we vividly realize how little we understand about the world beneath the surface of the ocean,” said Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute.
“We are in our infancy in terms of exploration, discovery, and understanding of the connections that exist between our life on land and life in the Ocean.”
The Mariana Trench expedition is just one of many important research projects that are conducted aboard R/V Falkor.
This year, the vessel has already traversed across the Central and Western Pacific exploring the Tasman Sea, Perth Canyon and the remote Timor Sea off of Western Australia, the Mentawai Quake Zone off the coast of Sumatra, the equatorial Pacific, and is now currently mapping Tamu Massif, the world’s single largest underwater volcano.
“It is up to ships like Falkor to continue the global mission to further our understanding of the seas” said Eric King, Director of Marine Operations at Schmidt Ocean Institute.