Under the ocean near California – 700 feet deep in the waters off Santa Barbara in California, a group of football-field-sized asphalt domes pave the bottom of the ocean. They are unlike any other underwater features known to exist–are they underwater volcanoes? (and if so, are they dormant?) We need to know if we have a potential emergency situation here.

They are dormant today, but about 35,000 years ago, a series of apparent undersea volcanoes deposited massive flows of petroleum 10 miles offshore. The deposits hardened into the domes, the largest of which is about the size of two football fields and as tall as a 6 story building. Oceanographer Christopher M. Reddy talks about discovering them while riding in a submarine. He says, “It was an amazing experience, driving along, and all of a sudden, this mountain is staring you in the face.” They were teeming with undersea life: “It was essentially an oasis, almost like an artificial reef.

“One future direction is to try and actually drill into them. We also need to turn it over to some geologists to figure out where this oil is really coming from. More fundamentally, we’re going to look at the actual degradation of the oil by microorganisms and maybe even see what organisms are trapped in this, very much like the La Brea Tar Pits.”

Since the domes are asphalt (the same material that paves highways and parking lots) rather than oil, there’s no potential here for offshore drilling, but there could be the opportunity to create an underwater museum that could be visited by submarine. Reddy wants to “see what organisms are trapped in this, very much like the La Brea Tar Pits.”

We had a delightful eruption of INFORMATION in Nashville last summer and if you want to find out what your favorite Dreamland hosts are thinking THIS YEAR, join us on June 25-27 for a thought-provoking good time!

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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