Ancient Asphalt Domes Found off California

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., April 26 (UPI) — U.S.-led scientists say they’ve found asphalt domes 700 feet deep in the Pacific off California that are unlike any other underwater features known to exist.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, University of California-Santa Barbara and UC-Davis researchers said the group of football-field-sized asphalt domes was apparently formed about 35,000 years ago when a series of undersea volcanoes deposited massive flows of petroleum 10 miles offshore from Santa Barbara.

“It was an amazing experience, driving along … and all of a sudden, this mountain is staring you in the face,” said Christopher Reddy, director of WHOI’s Coastal Ocean Institute and one of the study’s senior authors. He described the discovery of the domes using the deep submersible vehicle Alvin. Moreover, the dome was teeming with undersea life. “It was essentially an oasis,” said Reddy, “almost like an artificial reef.”

University of California-Santa Barbara Assistant Professor David Valentine, the study’s lead author, said the largest dome is about the size of two football fields side-by-side and as tall as a six-story building.

The study, which included scientists from University of Sydney and the University of Rhode Island, appears in the early online issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.

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Categorized | Other, Volcanoes
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