Four mud volcanoes found off Phuket
Geologists' underwater discovery is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia
A team of Thai and German marine geologists has found four submarine mud volcanoes about 200 kilometres from Phuket, the team leader announced yesterday.
Dr Anon Sanitwong na Ayutthaya, of Chulalongkorn University, said tests had been carried out for 16 days ending on December 6 with support from the German government and from the National Marine Geology Institute in Keil, Germany.
The team surveyed the seabed for 1,500 square kilometres at a depth of 1,000 to 2,800 metres at the edge of the continental shelf, about 300km from Phuket.
"We have good news … the team detected four mud volcanoes in the area," he said.
Using a multi-beam echo sounder and parametric sub-bottom profiler, the marine geologists found the first and biggest volcano about 200km from Phuket, about 650 metres under the sea. Its base is about 800 metres in diameter and it is 100 metres high.
The second volcano is located 50km west of the first volcano at a depth of about 1,000 metres.
The third and fourth volcanoes have bases about 500 metres in diameter and are 60-70 metres high. They are located about 60km northeast of the second volcano and are at a depth of 700 to 800 metres.
These are the first submarine mud volcanoes discovered in Southeast Asia, Anon said. But an above-ground mud volcano exists at Baratang Island, in India's Andaman Islands, about 200 to 300km away.
The team of marine geologists suspected the mud volcanoes they had found were like submarine mud volcanoes off Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.
"This kind of volcano has nothing to do with tsunamis or other disasters. I don't want people to be worried as they are not hazardous," Anon said.
Mud volcanoes were often associated with petroleum deposits and the area might gather strange undersea marine creatures that live without sunlight, he said.
Anon said the survey would continue in April 2007, when the team plans to use a remotely operated vehicle to collect mud sediment to try to find out if the mud volcanoes were active.
"We suspect that some of the four are active mud volcanoes," Anon said.
The project to survey trenches and the continental shelf off Thailand started this year and will finish in 2008. It is funded by the National Research Council of Thailand.