Barren Island: The house of India’s only active volcano

Volcanic activity reported off the Andaman coast


February 18, 2017

/ By / New Delhi


An aerial shot of Barren Island in Andaman and Nicobar Islands

A team of Indian scientists has reported a live volcano in the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Spewing ash and lava, this is India’s only live volcano.

After having being dormant for over 150 years, India’s only live volcano on the Barren Island in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, started showing activity in 1991 and now has again started spouting ashes, the researchers at Goa-based National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) informed Indian media.

It is India’s only live volcano in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian union territory in the Bay of Bengal. The Barren Island volcano is located 140-km north-east of the island’s capital, Port Blair and after over a century is showing signs of activity since January this year.

“On the afternoon of January 23, the scientific team on board CSIR-NIO’s research ship, RV Sindhu Sankalp, were busy collecting sea floor samples in the Andaman Basin near the Barren volcano when it suddenly started spewing ash,” the NIO informed the Indian media through a statement.

The team of the NIO was conducting their observations one mile from the volcano and noted small episodes of eruption lasting about five to ten minutes. Ash clouds during day time and red lava fountains spouting from the crater into the atmosphere were also observed. The scientists have also reported of hot lava streaming down the slopes of the volcano.

The NIO has said that their team witnessed the continuation of spurts of blasts and smoke over a couple of days. After their first visit on January 23, the team revisited the site on January 26, only to still find it active.

Researchers have sampled the sediments and water in the vicinity of the volcano and have “recovered coal-like black pyroclastic material, representing proximal volcanic ejecta. Clouds were seen at the crater mouth where the smoke was bellowing out into the otherwise clear sky,” according to the researchers.

The found samples are to help in deciphering the nature of the past and present activities in the region by studying the ash layers in a sediment column.

“The team observed the activity for about four hours before continuing with their research cruise. Landing on the volcanic island was not attempted as it was too dangerous,” the NIO statement said. The Andaman Basin is an active back-arc spreading basin and is known for its strong seismicity and many submarine volcanoes and hydrothermal activity, the statement has further added.

The surveys conducted in the Andaman Basin by the team of CSIR-NIO have identified many small submerged volcanoes in a linear chain called a volcanic arc. These volcanoes are formed due to the rising magma formed deep in the mantle due to the melting of the subducted Indian Ocean crust.

A few of these underlying volcanoes have been excavated for samples and pumice kind of light volcanic rock have been recovered.

The Barren Island is uninhabited, but citizens of India can visit it by chartered boats after obtaining permission of the Forest Department in Port Blair.

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