In 2015, a team of scientists sent down camera-equipped robots to Kavachi, one of the most active underwater volcanoes in the southwest Pacific Ocean, south of Vangunu Island in the Solomon Islands.
Surrounded by hot, acidic seawater, the environment is hardly a place you’d expect sea life to thrive. That’s why the scientists were so shocked when they discovered animals living in and around the volcano — specifically, hammerhead sharks, silky sharks, and even a rare Pacific sleeper shark.
“Divers who have gotten close to the outer edge of the volcano have had to back away because of how hot it is or because they were getting mild skin burns from the acid water,” said Brennan Phillips, a member of the team.
“These large animals are living in what you have to assume is much hotter and much more acidic water, and they’re just hanging out,” Phillips added. “It makes you question what type of extreme environment these animals are adapted to. What sort of changes have they undergone? Are there only certain animals that can withstand it?”