Don’t Just Stare at It: Diving Into the Abyss with Philippe Cousteau

This week's got plenty of us staring into the abyss. So why not follow Philippe Cousteau right down into it? 

The latest episode of The Aquatic World with Philippe Cousteau peers thousands of feet beneath the ocean into a magma-spewing volcano. Most of the world’s active volcanoes are underwater, and Cousteau, his wife, Ashlan, and the crew of their submarine visit the West Mata volcano 140 miles southwest of Samoa.

The biggest known volcano on earth, Tamu Massif, is also underwater. It rises 2.5 miles over the Pacific Ocean’s floor, geologist Will Sager of the University of Houston tells Cousteau over a fuzzy video call. If that doesn’t sound impressive enough, the volcano’s base covers more than 100,000 square miles, an area the size of New Mexico.

Mega-hot springs called hydrothermal vents often pop up around marine volcanoes. We’re talking water that’s 750 degrees Fahrenheit, when the surrounding ocean is near freezing cold. The vents are a source of energy down where the sun doesn’t shine, supporting ecosystems that include lobsters, octopi, crabs, and giant worms. “Even in the fuliginous deep ocean, amidst intense volcanic activity, life finds a way,” Cousteau says to sign off. It’s a pep talk we need right about now.