A brick road on the sea bottom

This was an expedition to a deep-water mountain range just north of the Hawaiian Islands. Then, they came across something extraordinary. How is it possible that there is a brick road at the bottom of the sea? What is the reason for this?

It was an old dry lake bed paved with what looks like a yellow brick road. It was found by chance by the exploration vessel Nautilus. It is currently surveying the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM).

A brick road on the seafloor surprises explorers.
A brick road at the bottom of the sea surprises explorers.

Huge marine reserve

PMNM is one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. It is even larger than all the national parks in the United States combined. However, we have only explored about 3% of its seafloor.

Ocean Exploration Trust researchers explore more than 3,000 meters beneath the waves. The best part? Anyone can watch the exploration. Throughout the day, the researchers provide live images. That’s how they got some amazing video. This is the moment the researchers stumbled upon the path.

“It’s the road to Atlantis,” one researcher can be heard exclaiming on the radio. “The yellow brick road?” replied another voice. “This is weird,” added another team member. “Are you kidding me? This is crazy.”

It lies beneath thousands of kilometers of ocean. But the lakebed discovered by the researchers looks surprisingly dry. The team notes that the soil looks almost like a “baked crust” that can be peeled away. In one small section, the volcanic rock has fractured in a way that looks very much like bricks.

“These are unique 90-degree fractures. They are related to heating and cooling stresses from multiple eruptions at this baked margin,” they point out. Thus a brick road is made possible on the seafloor.

The effect is easily mistaken for a pathway to a wonderful new world. And so it is: the Nautilus takes us on a journey to parts of our planet we have never seen before. We may soon learn much more about the hidden geology of the Earth.

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