Discover the Underwater Chain of Volcanos Off the Coast of New England and Just How Big They Are

© Dong won Lee/iStock via Getty Images

Written by Rob Amend

Updated: November 9, 2023

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Across the world, there are thousands of underwater volcanos. Some are active, and some are dormant, but they all formed as the world’s tectonic plates moved over magma hotspots from the earth’s core. Sometimes, these volcanos will be solitary mountains below the ocean surface. Other times, the hotspot will form chains of mountains as the plate moves. Some of these will form island chains on the surface, such as Hawaii’s Emperor Seamount Chain. Were you aware, however, that there is an underwater chain of volcanos off the coast of New England?

New England’s Underwater Chain of Volcanos

Underwater mountain

The underwater volcanos off the coast of New England are much deeper than these.

©Johan Holmdahl/iStock via Getty Images

The chain of underwater extinct volcanos off the coast of New England is called the New England Seamount Chain. This chain of more than 30 mountains is about 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) long. It is the longest such chain in the Atlantic Ocean. Some mountain tops reach about 2.5 miles (4,000 meters) above the sea floor. The chain hosts diverse deep-sea life and is a popular destination for scientific study.

How Did the New England Seamounts Form?

The hotspot responsible for the formation of the New England Seamounts is the Great Meteor Hotspot. Earlier mountains formed due to the hotspot were the White Mountains across New Hampshire and Maine about 120 to 100 million years ago. After that, the hotspot moved under the Atlantic Ocean, creating the New England Seamounts, beginning with Bear Seamount 103 to 100 million years ago and ending the chain with the Nashville Seamount about 83 million years ago. At first, the mountains rose above the ocean surface, but as the hotspot moved and the crust cooled, it contracted, and the range sank below the surface.

Where Are New England’s Underwater Volcanos on a Map?

What Lives Around the New England Seamounts?

Halosaur Fish

Halosaur fish are present around New England's underwater volcanos.

The halosaur fish resides in the depths around the New England Seamounts.

©NOAA Ocean Exploration & Research from USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 – Original / License

Halosaurs are eel-like fish that live near the sea floor at depths of up to 11,000 feet. They are thought to be distributed throughout the world’s oceans and are among the species found near the bases of the New England Seamounts. The longest specimen of these long, gray, or blackfish was about 3 feet long. Their tails, resembling whips, can regenerate if lost. Those seen in the wild (very few) have been spotted by remotely operated underwater vehicles.


Chimaera were spotted on muddy ridges on the seamounts.

Chimaera live on muddy ridges on the seamounts.

©Vladimir Wrangel/

A recent expedition to the New England Seamounts came across a ratfish chimaera. These deep sea fish typically thrive 650-8,500 feet below the ocean surface. They like to skate along muddy ridges and continental shelves. These muddy seabeds are where their prey, like crabs, mollusks, and small octopuses, like to burrow and hide. Their skeletons are made of cartilage, and they have venomous dorsal spines.


The frightening anglerfish has been around for as long as New England's underwater volcanos.

The frightening anglerfish has been around for as long as New England’s underwater volcanos.

©Neil Bromhall/

Another deep-sea fish found around the seamounts is the anglerfish. The anglerfish has a glowing lure dangling from the top of its head to draw in unsuspecting prey. Once the prey is within range, its many sharp fangs make short work of the unsuspecting fish. Anglerfish live at depths from the continental shelf down to the seafloor. They evolved 100 to 130 million years ago, meaning that, as a species, they are as old as the seamounts they fish near.

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About the Author

Rob Amend is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily covering meteorology, geology, geography, and animal oddities. He attained a Master's Degree in Library Science in 2000 and served as reference librarian in an urban public library for 22 years. Rob lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, photography, woodworking, listening to classic rock, and watching classic films—his favorite animal is a six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey.

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