Report on Monowai (New Zealand) — August 1990

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 15, no. 8 (August 1990)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland

Monowai (New Zealand) Extensive zone of sulfurous discolored water; bathymetric data show two plumes

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1990. Report on Monowai (New Zealand). In: McClelland, L (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 15:8. Smithsonian Institution.

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New Zealand

25.887°S, 177.188°W; summit elev. -132 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

A sharply defined zone of brown water extended W from the seamount's summit area during a visit by the research vessel HMNZS Tui on 13 August between 0800 and 1400. A strong sulfur smell was noted but no bubbles were visible. The surface temperature in discolored water 400 m from the plume's origin was 2.0 ± 0.5°C higher than that of the surrounding sea water. At 9 km from the summit, the plume of discolored water was ~3.7 km wide.

An attempt to contour the bathymetry of the top 500 m of the seamount (figure 1) was hampered by intermittent availability of GPS satellite fixes. Southern slopes appeared to have a regular cone shape, but the N slopes, where ship navigation was based on inputs from a gyrocompass and doppler log, appeared distorted to the NE. A minimum depth of 100 m was measured. Two vertical plumes extended to the surface.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. N-S profile across the summit of Monowai Seamount using a 45-kHz sounder. Vertical exaggeration 6:1. Depths are in meters. Two vertical plumes (not seen on the 12 kHz sounder) extend from the summit area to the surface. Courtesy of the Defence Scientific Establishment.

Geologic Background. Monowai, also known as Orion seamount, rises to within 100 m of the sea surface about halfway between the Kermadec and Tonga island groups. The volcano lies at the southern end of the Tonga Ridge and is slightly offset from the Kermadec volcanoes. Small parasitic cones occur on the N and W flanks of the basaltic submarine volcano, which rises from a depth of about 1500 m and was named for one of the New Zealand Navy bathymetric survey ships that documented its morphology. A large 8.5 x 11 km wide submarine caldera with a depth of more than 1500 m lies to the NNE. Numerous eruptions from Monowai have been detected from submarine acoustic signals since it was first recognized as a volcano in 1977. A shoal that had been reported in 1944 may have been a pumice raft or water disturbance due to degassing. Surface observations have included water discoloration, vigorous gas bubbling, and areas of upwelling water, sometimes accompanied by rumbling noises.

Information Contacts: Lt. Cdr. Owen Hanley, HMNZS Tui, Auckland Naval Base, Auckland; L. Hall, Defence Scientific Establishment, Auckland Naval Base, Auckland.