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'Abyss' scans and reveals the secrets of Santorini and Kolumbo volcanoes

The research vessel RV Poseidon of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research of Kiel in cooperation with the Geology Department of Kapodistrian University of Athens are examining the seabed and the underseas volcanoes of the islands of Cyclades with focus on the volcano of Santorini and the submarine volcano Kolumbo.

The expedition started on March 8 and the scientists aim to study the developments and changes in the undersea volcanoes of the Cyclades throughout the centuries and to find indications for possible explosions in the future. Special focus will be given on the volcano of Santorini, which is an attraction for scientists from Greece and abroad, in order to investigate the largest volcanic explosion that took place approximately 3,600 years ago as well as the most recent explosion of the underseas volcano of Kolumbo that took place in 1650 AD.

The programme will run until the end of May and includes four oceanographic missions that will monitor the submarine area of Greece's volcanic field. The three expeditions will focus on the triangle Santorini-Amorgos-Nisyros while the fourth one will examine the submarine area of the Saronic Gulf.

The first expedition that was completed in March concerned the study of the fault line in Anydros as well as the examination of the hydrothermic activity in the caldera of Kolumbo. The autonomous underseas vessel (AUV) Abyss scanned and mapped the approximately 100 sq.km of the seabed northeast of Santorini. The scientists aim is to understand the active tectonic structure of the area and how it interacts with other active volcanoes with the hydrothermia and with the earthquakes.

Chief of the first expedition was Canadian professor of GEOMAR center Mark Hanington. Speaking to the Athens Macedonian News Agency (ANA), he stressed that "the mapping of active volcanoes with a AUV vessel is held in order to understand the development of the volcanoes in the future".

Athens University professor Paraskevi Nomikou, who has been studying the two volcanoes since 2010, stated to ANA: "Our cooperation with the German research group helped us to develop our knowledge on the tectonic and volcanic activity in the area. The submarine volcano of Kolumbo constitutes a natural laboratory for the scientists. We are examining the hydrothermic relation between the two active hydrothermic fields, of Santorini and Kolumbo, and the high definition mapping of the seabead revealed, for the first time, the special and intense morphology of the submarine terrain."