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Hole in ocean floor.

Hole in ocean floor

The deep-sea floor generates more excitement each year, as scientists continue to uncover signs that they need to revise their image of this realm as a quiet and static place. Recently, oceanographers have observed storms of intense currents that occasionally sweep patches of the ocean floor. Now a group of researchers has discovered evidence that a natural seafloor explosion blew open a large crater in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, they report in the Jan. 27 SCIENCE.

Using high-resolution sonar equipment, David B. Prior from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and his colleagues identified the crater in 2,176 meters of water southeast of the Mississippi River delta. The elliptical hole measures 280 meters across, 400 meters long and some 58 meters deep, and sits atop a small hill. Downslope lies approximately 2 million cubic meters of ejected sediment.

Because the area is known for its reservoirs of hydrocarbons, Prior surmises these substances caused the explosion that produced the crater. As one possible explanation, he suggests hydrocarbons seeping upward along cracks in the seafloor might have collected under some impermeable barrier until pressure forced the buoyant gas to blow off its cover. Based on the crater's appearance, the researchers think it may be younger than a century old. In 1906, sailors in the area reported seeing bubbling water, which may have been caused by such an eruption.
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Title Annotation:crater found in bottom of Gulf of Mexico
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 4, 1989
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