WHOOP! Aggie volcano beneath the sea confirmed largest on Earth

In 1993, oceanographer William Sager began studying the massive underwater mountain mass about 1,000 miles off the coast of Japan in a mountain range known as the Shatsky Rise. At that time, Sager was with the Texas A&M College of Geosciences. He nicknamed the large mountain mass “Tamu Massif” —“Tamu” for the abbreviation of Texas A&M and “Massif” for the French word frequently used to describe a large mountain mass. 

Tamu Massif

Ten years later Dr. William Sager, now with the University of Houston’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department, announced that Tamu Massif was actually one single volcano on September 5, 2013.

Since they are submerged beneath the oceans in remote locations and therefore difficult to study, far less is known about volcanoes beneath the sea than those that tower above us on land. The origins of underwater volcanoes are murky; their structures and how they erupt and evolve is unclear. 

Multichannel seismic profiles and rock samples taken from Integrated Ocean Drilling Program core sites were used to interpret the structure of Tamu Massif, the oldest and largest edifice of the Shatsky Rise oceanic plateau in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. 

Tamu Massif is seen to be a single, immense volcano, constructed from massive lava flows that emanated from the volcano center to form a broad, shield-like mound the size of New Mexico. The volcano has anomalously low slopes, probably due to high effusion rates and low viscosity of the erupting lava (i.e. being underneath all that water makes it difficult for the lava to flow).

The largest single volcano on Earth, Tamu Massif is comparable in size to the largest known volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons on Mars. Data from Tamu Massif document a class of oceanic volcanoes that is distinguished by its size and shape from the thousands of common seamounts found throughout the oceans. 

Next year, William Sager and his team will return to Tamu Massif to collect more data bearing on its shape and formation.

Olympus Mons above, Hawaiian islands below, to scale.

Dr. William Sager will give a vivid presentation on Tamu Massif at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Tuesday, June 24 at 6:30 p.m. to complement Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters, now on display at HMNS.

HMNS Distinguished Lecture
Tamu Massif, The World’s Biggest Volcano Is Hiding Beneath the Sea
William W. Sager, Ph.D.
Tuesday, June 24, 6:30 p.m.
Click here or call 713-639-4629 for advance tickets.

Massif Blog 2Tamu Massif, the world’s largest volcano, was discovered in 2013 in the northwestern Pacific Ocean by a team of researchers lead by Dr. William Sager. Constructed from massive lava flows that emanated from the volcano’s center, Tamu Massif is comparable in size to the largest known volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons on Mars. Dr. Sager will explain how he is unlocking the murky secrets of oceanic plateau structure, how they erupt and evolve using multichannel seismic profiles and core samples from the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, and why this new data is important to you. Professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at the University of Houston, Dr. William W. Sager leads research vessels to sea to collect geological data. 

Massif Blog 3

 

The world’s last dreadnought: Distinguished Lecture pays homage to Battleship Texas

Ships named “Texas” have a grand history — just like the state. The first ship to bear the name came about when the United States realized it had less naval power than countries like Belize or Chile. The U.S. set out on a naval modernization program under the direction of then Undersecretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, and built two modern battleships: the USS Texas (commissioned in 1895) and the USS Maine

While the Maine became infamous for starting the Spanish American War in 1898, the “Old Hoodoo” — as the Texas was called — under the command of Captain John “Jack” Phillips, served well at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba. There, she was part of Commodore Schley’s “Flying Squadron,” a force of ships gathered to defend the Atlantic coast against any Spanish fleets making their way to our shore. The Spanish fleet bottled up in the bay made a daring run to escape the blockading American fleet. In a matter of hours, the Spanish ships were sunk or run aground, and the U.S. fleet suffered only two casualties.

This first Texas was decommissioned in 1911 so her name could be added to a new dreadnought battleship, Hull No. 35. 

uss-texasLaunched on May 18, 1912, a few days after another infamous ship sank, the new Texas (BB -35) had a distinguished career with many firsts. Before she even had a shakedown cruise, she was off to support U.S. troops during the “Tampico Incident” in Mexico before World War I. Under the command of Victor Blue, she ferried convoys across the Atlantic and protected main layers around the northern German coast during World War I.  She escorted President Wilson to the peace conference after the war.  

During the intra-war years, she switched from burning coal to burning oil — a change that increased her range significantly and reduced the weight of the fuel she carried from 3,000 tons of coal to 400 tons of oil. She was the first battleship to have anti-air guns, launch a plane from her decks, and test radar. She participated in the landings in North Africa, the D-Day invasion, and the Battle of Okinawa, amongst others.

Since WWII, she’s been quite busy. In 1948, Texas became the first battleship memorial museum in the country. She currently serves as the flagship of the Third Texas Navy.

She also has an active acting career, playing the battleship West Virginia in Pearl Harbor. But I prefer when she plays herself in Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of our Fathers. In the Ayes of Texas trilogy, she repeatedly saves the nation of Texas from the Soviet fleet. Way to go girl!

The next “Texas” was a Nuclear Guided Missile Cruiser (CGN). This Texas (CGN-39) was part of the new nuclear navy that launched in the 1960s and 1970s. She was second in the Virginia-class of cruisers. She participated in Operation Eagle Claw, an operation to rescue Iranian hostages. Under Captain William K. Gautier, she served as anti-air commander during the First Persian Gulf War. Due to the cost of maintenance and the fall of the Soviet Union, she was decommissioned about halfway through her expected life in 1993.

The current USS Texas has kept the nuclear tradition. She is second in the Virginia-class of nuclear attack submarines. Commissioned in 2004, the story of the USS Texas (SSN-775) is one shrouded by the depths of the sea. Under Commander Andrew Hertel, she patrols the ocean’s depths, looking for other silent and submerged killers, as well as surface fleets.

Join us on Tuesday, June 3 for our Distinguished Lecture Series to learn about the captains of the Battleship Texas and her place in history. The lecture is in conjunction with the showing of the incredible D-Day film and the Battleship Texas Centennial exhibit.

Bits and bobs: 36 British phenoms that make Americans utterly gobsmacked

Americans are as rightly possessive of Magna Carta as are the Brits — along with other transatlantic sensations. 

But you don’t have to be an Anglophile to admit you can’t get enough of these faves from jolly ol’ England. What should we add to this list?

British — and American — Sensations
(in no particular order)

  1. Magna Carta
  2. Downton Abbey
  3. Princess Diana
  4. Fish and “chips” (aka French fries)
  5. James Bond
  6. Burberry plaid
  7. The Royal Wave
  8. Pints (as in, “Mind your pints and quarts” / Ps & Qs)
  9. The British accent (per Madonna, et. al.)
  10. Tabloids
  11. Wimbledon
  12. Pubs
  13. Monty Python
  14. Twiggy
  15. British humor
  16. Princess Kate
  17. William & Harry
  18. Stonehenge
  19. “Football” (a.k.a. soccer)
  20. Harry Potter
  21. Love Actually
  22. Gwyneth Paltrow/Chris Martin (and their recent conscious uncoupling)
  23. The Titanic
  24. One Direction
  25. Kate Moss
  26. Topshop
  27. Benny Hill
  28. Bridget Jones
  29. The Beatles
  30. The Rolling Stones
  31. Shakespeare
  32. Afternoon tea
  33. Fawlty Towers
  34. Doctor Who
  35. Punk culture
  36. Royal weddings

But why do these strike a chord in folks on both sides of the pond?

Paul Smith, the director of the British Council U.S.A. in Washington D.C. will examine some of the reasons why. As part of our Distinguished Lecture Series, he’ll explore icons in British cultural history that have captivated the U.S. and contributed to the special relationship between the two nations.

What might be in store for us Yanks during the next British invasion?

HMNS Distinguished Lecture
British and American Sensations
Wednesday, May 14, 6:30 p.m.                                            
Click here for advance tickets

Paul Smith joined the British Council in 1983 and has also been director of the British Council in Egypt and Afghanistan. He was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham and Queens College Cambridge. His interests include history, international cultural relations and all the arts, especially drama. He has directed plays, particularly Shakespeare, in various countries.

Magna Carta programs are generously supported by the British Council.

Looking to move? Try Mars! Robert Zubrin on the fast track to colonizing Mars

In July 1989, on the 20th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, President George H.W. Bush called for America to renew its pioneering push into space with the establishment of a permanent lunar base and a series of human missions to Mars. Almost 25 years later, these goals still seem like pipe dreams to many Americans. However, as the nation debates how to proceed with human space exploration, a human mission to Mars must still be on the table.

While many have said that such an endeavor would be excessively costly and take decades to complete, a small team at Martin Marietta drew up a daring plan that could sharply cut costs and send a group of American astronauts to the Red Planet within ten years.

The plan, known as Mars Direct, has attracted both international attention and broad controversy.

Mars Direct is a sustained humans-to-Mars plan, advocating a minimalist, live-off-the-land approach to exploring the planet Mars. It allows for maximum results with minimum investment. Using existing launch technology and making use of the Martian atmosphere to generate rocket fuel, extracting water from the Martian soil and eventually using the abundant mineral resources of the Red Planet for construction purposes, the plan drastically lowers the amount of material which must be launched from Earth to Mars. Thus, it sidesteps the primary stumbling block to space exploration, and rapidly accelerates the timetable for human exploration of the solar system.

The principal author of Mars Direct, Robert Zubrin, has presented the plan to such fora as the blue ribbon Synthesis Group, headed by former Apollo astronaut General Thomas Stafford, the Augustine Committee, as well as to various government officials, including House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator John McCain, and NASA Administrators Dan Goldin, Mike Griffin, and Charles Bolden.

He will present at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on May 7 at 7 p.m. in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre. Click here for advance tickets.

Principal author of Mars Direct, Robert Zubrin

HMNS DISTINGUISHED LECTURE
“Mars Direct: Humans to the Red Planet within a Decade,” with Robert Zubrin, Ph.D.
Wednesday, May 7, 7 p.m.
HMNS Wortham Giant Screen Theatre
Tickets $18, HMNS Members $12

Can Americans reach the Red Planet in our time? Principal author of Mars Direct, Robert Zubrin, addresses this question. Zubrin is an aerospace engineer and founder of the Mars Society. Following the lecture, he will sign copies of his popular books The Case for Mars, How to Live on Mars, and Merchants of Despair. Click here for advance tickets.

SPECIAL EVENING SCREENING
The Great Planet Adventures
Wednesday, May 7, 6 p.m.
HMNS Burke Baker Planetarium
Tickets $8, HMNS Members $4

Discover what it would be like to live, dress, and work on each planet and what you would need to survive in each planetary environment — particularly the local weather and gravity fields. Click here for advance tickets.