(Image / Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Starting this Tuesday, a team of national scientists is set to explore Canada’s largest underwater volcano ⁠— located near the coast of Vancouver Island ⁠— in hopes of learning more about the rare habitat.

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the underwater volcano, Explorer Seamount, is the largest offshore shallow-water refuge in Canada and measures over 2,000 square kilometres, or roughly the same size of Greater Vancouver.

(Image / DFO)

The DFO, Ocean Networks Canada, and the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation are launching their two-week underwater expedition of Explorer Seamount to learn more details about the area, including what animals live their and at what depths, what plant species reside there, the characteristics of surrounding volcanic sediments, as well as much more.

The Explorer Seamount is described by the DFO as an underwater mountain that stands a whopping 2.5 km above the seafloor – it is also home to a vast network of sponges, earning it the nickname “Spongetopia.”

“Explorer Seamount is like no other that we have visited to far,” said the DFO’s website about the expedition.

“It is home to a strange reef-like habitat, informally called Spongetopia, a bizarrely large monoculture of sponges extending far beyond the distance the scientists could travel during the 2018 dive. To add to the mystery, the geological, chemical, and ecological characteristics of the seamount are all varied from what scientists have come to expect on seamounts in the region.”

Underwater live-streams

To explore the massive underwater volcano, researchers will deploy a high-definition submersible drop camera, also known as BOOTS (Bathyal Ocean Observation and Televideo System).

The camera will be operated aboard the research ship, and can dive to depths of up to 2,000 metres while delivering real-time imagery and oceans data on temperature, oxygen levels, and depth.

The research team plans to live-stream daily parts of their expedition, with the first live dive taking place on Friday, July 19th, from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Interested viewers can find the live-stream online here.

After Friday, the live-stream schedule will be updated daily on the DFO’s website.