Marine geophysicist Jenny Barretto discovers world’s largest caldera within Philippines’ Benham Rise

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Jenny Barretto discovers caldera
Apolaki Caldera lies within the biodiversity-rich Philippine Rise. Credits to UP Marine Science Institute.

Marine geophysicist Jenny Anne Barretto has discovered another unique feature within the Philippines’ Benham Rise – the world’s largest caldera.

The Benham Rise, also known as the Philippine Rise, is Luzon Island’s natural submarine prolongation that spans 3,000-3,500 meters below sea level.

Philippine marine scientists say it is home to at least 200 fish species, among them surgeonfish, hawkfish, and damselfish, and large predators such as the tiger shark, along with soft and hard corals, algae, and sponges. The Philippine Rise can potentially yield the highest catch rate of tuna species, including big-eye, yellowfin tuna, and albacore.

Studies conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources also indicate large deposits of methane in solid form, making it a potentially rich source of natural gas.

The New Zealand-based Filipino scientist noted the discovery of the crest named Apolaki Caldera in the paper “Benham Rise unveiled: Morphology and structure of an Eocene large igneous province in the West Philippine Basin” published on October 20.

Benham Rise also known as the Philippine Rise is Luzon Island’s natural submarine prolongation. Credits to Oceana Philippines

The paper’s abstract says the Apolaki Caldera within Benham Rise “may be the world’s largest known caldera with a diameter of ~150 km.” The caldera features a breached rim, intra-caldera benches, and a resurgent dome that indicates the large crater was created by “a multi-phase volcanic history consisting of both quiet and explosive eruptions.”

Jenny Anne Barretto, a University of the Philippines graduate, along with Ray Wood and John Milsom revealed the morphology of Benham Rise for the first time using multibeam bathymetry with almost 100% coverage.

The report says the bathymetry and publicly available geological and geophysical data record three main stages in the tectonic history of Benham Rise – shield-building, caldera formation, and post-caldera/late-stage volcanism.

Barretto’s paper says the Apolaki Caldera formation is interpreted to have occurred before ~41.3–41.5 Ma when Benham Rise was still joined with Urdaneta Plateau.

The Philippines’ marine resources and rich biodiversity have been documented by underwater photographers, most recently in a winning photograph exhibited at the London National History Museum, at the Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest, and the Sony Photography Awards.

SEND cheers in the comments below to Jenny Anne Barretto and her team for discovering another unique feature of the Philippine Seas!

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Aurora Quadra-Balibay
Angie is a self-confessed reformed news critic who vows she has finally found infinite value in delivering the good news. She teaches students of all ages how to make the important interesting for audiences across media platforms.