Seamounts are often remnants of extinct volcanoes and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Seamounts can be found in every world ocean basin and scientists estimate that there are more than 100,000 of them around the globe.

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Content essays

Background essays are written by explorers involved in a specific expedition in order to provide further background on specific topic areas associated with the expedition. Below are selected essays focused on seamounts.

The Birth, Life, and Death of Pacific Guyot Seamounts

This essay describes the life cycle of seamounts in the Pacific Ocean in relation to plate tectonics, from birth at a hotspot to death in a subduction zone.

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Guyots: Intriguing Flat-topped Seamounts that Host a Diversity of Habitats for Deepwater Animals

Seamounts that erupt and grow to reach the surface have their conical tops flattened as a result of both erosion and coral reef growth. When these flat-topped seamounts eventually sink back down to deep water, they are called Guyots.

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Geologic Overview of the West Pacific

The West Pacific Ocean is underlain by some of the oldest seafloor in the world, and it hosts a large number of submarine volcanoes, referred to as seamounts. These seamounts are typically formed by small extents of melting in the Earth’s mantle, which may occur in several different geologic settings. In one of those settings, the so-called hotspots, a chain of volcanoes forms as the Earth’s tectonic plates move over areas in the Earth’s mantle that are thought to be anomalously hot.

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Deep Sea Fauna of the Marianas – Isolated or Connected

This Mission Log explores the large circle of organism distribution and connection among the Mariana region, the Northwest Pacific, the East China Sea, and Japan.

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Why Are Seamounts Hotspots for Biodiversity?

With structure for animals to settle and live on and currents supplying food and nutrients, the variety of life, or biodiversity, at seamounts is often rather high.

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Seamounts: Underwater Islands of the Pacific

An overview of seamount age, geology and biological complexity by seamount expert, Dr. Les Watling.

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New England Seamount Chain 2013

The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer conducted seafloor and water column mapping operations in the Western North Atlantic Ocean over a portion of the New England Seamount Chain from June 11-29, 2013.

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Geology of Davidson Seamount

Davidson Seamount is one of a group of submarine volcanoes off the continental margin offshore central California, between Lat 37.5° and Lat 34.0°. Davidson Seamount -- along with Guide, Pioneer, Gumdrop, and Rodriguez -- differ morphologically from typical ocean island volcanoes.

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Seamount Fact Sheet

Seamounts are often remnants of extinct volcanoes and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The technical definition of a seamount states that it should rise over 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) above the surrounding seafloor. Because they never break the water surface, seamounts are not islands.

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This section provides direct access to selected lessons about seamounts developed by scientists and educators during Ocean Explorer field seasons. These lessons are geared toward students in Grades 5-12. Presented here as Web-based education materials, each lesson corresponds with a specific ocean exploration and can be supplemented with daily logs prepared by scientists and educators during each mission at sea. Additional lessons on seamounts can be found using the Lesson Plan search feature.

Older lessons are aligned to the National Science Education Standards and newer lessons support the Next Generation Science Standards (and their associated Common Core Standards). All lessons from 2006 to the present also support the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts. Note: The web links provided in lessons are verified at the time of publication, but over time, some links may change or become obsolete.

Mapping Deep Sea Features

Grades: 5-6

Bathymetric mapping of deep-sea habitats

Students will create a two-dimensional contour map from actual bathymetric survey data. Students will create a three-dimensional model of the landform on the underwater contour map they created.

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Easy as Pi

Grades: 5-6

Focus: Structural complexity in benthic habitats

Students will be able to describe the importance of structural features that increase surface area in benthic habitats. Students will be able to quantify the relative impact of various structural modifications on surface area in model habitats. Students will be able to give examples of organisms that increase the structural complexity of their communities.

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Leaving Home

Grades: 5-6

Dispersal of benthic invertebrate larvae

Students will be able to explain the meaning of "larval dispersal" and "larval retention." Students will be able to explain the importance of larval dispersal and larval retention to populations of organisms in the marine environment. Given data on recruitment of organisms to artificial substrates, students will be able to draw inferences about larval dispersal in these species.

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Big Fleas have Little Fleas

Grades: 7-8

Students will recognize that natural structures and systems often display recurrent complexity over many scales of measurement. Students will be able to infer the importance of structural complexity to species diversity and abundance in benthic habitats. Students will be able to discuss ways that octocorals may modify seamount habitats to make these habitats more suitable for other species. Students create a Sierpinski Triangle.

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Round and Round

Grades: 9-12

Circulation cells in the vicinity of seamounts

Students will be able to interpret data from a three-dimensional array of current monitors to infer an overall pattern of water circulation. Students will be able to hypothesize what effect an observed water circulation pattern might have on seamount fauna that reproduce by means of floating larvae. Students will be able to describe the importance of measurements to verify theoretical predictions. Students create current models.

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Watching in 3-D

Grades: 9-12

Multibeam sonar

Students will explain how multibeam sonar uses the properties of sound waves in water for scientific research about topography of the ocean floor. Students will analyze and interpret multibeam sonar data to identify patterns in the distribution of seafloor features that contribute to scientific research about large scale interactions in Earth’s systems. Students explore a seamount using free Fledermaus mapping software.


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Digital Atlas and Mytilus Seamount

To supplement the Watching in 3-D lesson, the following activities describe how geographical and mapping data marry with expedition website data and selected interactive Fledermaus scene files from key discoveries. The Digital Atlas can be used to obtain information about past NOAA Ocean Explorer expeditions, education resources associated with the expeditions, ship tracks, bathymetric maps, dive tracks, and more.

How to Use the Ocean Explorer Digital Atlas


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Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition 2013: Mytilus Seamount

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Observando en 3D

Grados: 9-12

Sonar multihaz (Ciencias físicas/Ciencias de la Tierra)

Los estudiantes explican cómo el sonar multihaz utiliza las propiedades de las ondas sonoras en el agua para la investigación científica acerca de la topografía del fondo oceánico. Los estudiantes analizarán e interpretarán datos de sonar multihaz para identificar patrones en la distribución de las características del fondo marino, que contribuyen a la investigación científica acerca de las interacciones a gran escala en los sistemas de la Tierra.
Actividad práctica: manipulación y análisis de imágenes mapeadas con software gratis

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Multimedia Discovery Missions (MDMs) are interactive multimedia presentations and learning activities that address topics ranging from Chemosynthesis and Hydrothermal Vent Life and Deep-sea Benthos to Food, Water and Medicine from the Sea. Each MDM includes a 7-9 minute animated Lesson, a 4-5 minute animation on Global Impacts, and three interactive activities.

launch seamounts mission

Below are links to a few selected videos and images of seamounts from previous Ocean Explorer expeditions.

OceanAGE Careers Connections

The Ocean Careers to Inspire Another Generation of Explorers, or OceanAGE Careers webpage, invites students to learn about the talented people who explore our ocean planet. From underwater pilots to research scientists, these marine explorers provide students with first-hand knowledge of exciting careers through videotaped interviews and written profiles. Here is one explorer who studies seamounts.

Dr. Tim Shank
Associate Scientist

Related Expeditions

The above items are only a selection of Seamounts content on our website.

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