The spectacular steam and water fountains erupting from geysers makes tourists go "ooh" and "aah," but they present a plumbing problem for scientists: What goes on underground beneath a geyser?
Are there long, narrow conduits like drinking straws running up to the surface, or do big chambers trap bubbles and water before they explode into the air?
A couple of fearless geologists decided the best way to solve the mystery was to look inside a geyser with a sturdy video camera. With only raingear for protection, Alexander Belousov and Marina Belousova, researchers at Russia's Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, lowered a camera into six geysers in the famed Valley of the Geysers on Russia's volcanic Kamchatka Peninsula.
The videos, combined with studies of rocks surrounding extinct geysers, revealed that the Kamchatka geysers aren't fed by long, narrow tubes, as once thought. Instead, bubble traps form between jumbled boulders deposited by landslides. The results provide a new model for understanding how geysers work, the researchers said. The study was published online Jan. 25 in the journal Geology.