A new type of basalt rock discovered under the ocean floor

A team of researchers, including scientists from the University of Leeds, has discovered a new type of basalt while drilling into the Pacific Ocean floor. The discovery of the new variety of basalt suggests that ocean floor eruptions that began in the Earth's mantle were hotter and more voluminous than researchers previously believed. The basalt discovered by the scientists is said to be distinctly different from other known types of basalt.

Researcher Dr. Ivan Savov says in an era where discoveries made in space exploration are admired, the discovery of the new type of basalt shows that there are many discoveries still to make here on Earth. The newly discovered basalt may be as different to the known ocean floor basalt on Earth as Earth's basalts are to those found on the moon.

With the discovery of the new type of rock, researchers on the project believe that many other rocks known to have originally formed by ocean floor eruptions will be re-examined. There is potential to widen the understanding of basalt formation in light of the discovery. The newly discovered basalt is different in both chemical and mineral makeup from previously known examples.

Its existence wasn't known about previously because no new examples have formed in millions of years. The new type of basalt is buried deep beneath the sediment at the bottom of the ocean. A research ship called Resolution sent drilling equipment six kilometers beneath the ocean's surface to the floor of the Amami Sankaku Basin to find the rock. Once at the bottom of the basin, the drill dug another 1.5 kilometers into the ocean floor to extract samples.

The area drilled into is part of the birth of the "Ring of Fire," a region stretching about 40,000 kilometers around the Pacific known for regular volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The area is believed to have formed at least 50 million years ago, and scientists say the expedition dug into some of the deepest waters ever considered for drilling.