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Vast Seamount Twice As High As Burj Khalifa Found Off Guatemala's Coast

So much of the seafloor remains a mystery to humans.

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Tom Hale

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Tom Hale

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Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

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Beatriz Naranjo (Scientist, Universidad de Costa Rica) is silhouetted against colorful data displayed on the screen onboard the research vessel Falkor (too)

Beatriz Naranjo (Scientist, Universidad de Costa Rica) is silhouetted against colorful data displayed on the screen onboard the research vessel Falkor (too).

Image credit: Alex Ingle / Schmidt Ocean Institute

While mapping the seafloor in the Pacific's depths, researchers stumbled across a never-before-seen underwater mountain twice as high as the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

The colossal seamount was discovered using a multibeam echosounder onboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s exploration and research vessel Falkor (too) during a recent expedition off the coast of Guatemala towards the East Pacific Rise.

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Lying some 2,400 meters (7,874 feet) below sea level, the seamount stands over 1,600 meters (5,249 feet) high – that’s over three Empire State Buildings – and covers an area of 14 square kilometers (5.4 square miles).

The discovery of an unknown seamount is exciting news for a bunch of reasons. In the wide open ocean, they serve as hotspots for biodiversity, providing surfaces for deep-sea corals, sponges, fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans. 

Bathymetry of the newly discovered Seamount
Bathymetry of the newly discovered seamount.
Image credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute


It also goes to show how little of the sea we have explored. 

“On every expedition, those aboard Falkor (too) have found the unexpected, the awe-inspiring, the new. While there is so much we’ve come to understand as discoveries tumble ever faster into view, so much remains unknown in our Ocean – and we are thrilled to continue exploring,” Wendy Schmidt, co-founder and president of Schmidt Ocean Institute, said in a statement seen by IFLScience. 

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“A seamount over 1.5 kilometers [0.9 miles] tall which has, until now, been hidden under the waves really highlights how much we have yet to discover,” added Dr Jyotika Virmani, executive director of Schmidt Ocean Institute. 

Since 2013, Schmidt Ocean Institute has mapped 1.44 million square kilometers (around 500,000 square miles) of seafloor, creating a map of almost 25 percent of the seafloor at a 100-meter (328 feet) or higher resolution. By the end of this decade, they hope to have mapped the totality of the seafloor, all 360 million square kilometers (139 million square miles) of it.

Falkor (too), the research ship used in this latest discovery, pictured if the Pacific.
Falkor (too), the research ship used in this latest discovery, pictured in the Pacific.
Image credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute


As this journey progresses, it’s certain researchers will come across an abundance of other vast seamounts. Recent satellite-based estimates suggest there are more than 100,000 unexplored seamounts taller than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet), each of which could be harboring an untold amount of biodiversity. 

Some of these deep mountains could be absolute giants. Technically, the highest mountain on Earth is a submerged seamount: Hawai'i's Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano that is more than 10,210 meters (33,500 feet) tall, measured from its base on the seafloor 5,486 meters (18,000 feet) beneath the water’s surface. By comparison, Mount Everest is comparatively puny at 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) tall.


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  • oceans,

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  • underwater mountain,

  • seafloor mapping

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