Apolaki: Titan Among the Earth

By Pamela Lira

From historically relevant such as largest attended papal gathering, to the bizarre like the largest serving of balut, the Philippines has been a home for the craziest and biggest world records imaginable. And now, we may just add another impressive record in the track: the biggest caldera in the world.

When a pipe leaks water from under the soil, a small area of land will usually cave in because of the water’s force. Similarly, a caldera is formed when large volumes of magma and debris are erupted, and the volcano collapses downward into the magma chamber, leaving a depression at the surface that ranges from measurable meters to massive kilometers. (Tarbuck, 2019). Now imagine this depression found thousands of feet deep in the Pacific Ocean.

Dr. Jenny Anne Barretto, a Filipino marine geologist and geophysicist, along with his team of researchers discovered the colossal Apolaki caldera in Benham Rise, a large oceanic igneous province at the west margin of the Philippine Sea. (Barretto, 2020) Rock samples determined from gravimetric analysis dated 47.9 to 26-million-years old from the time of its volcanic activity. The forces associated with its formation had been enough to “alter the chemistry and physics of the waters and atmosphere in this part of the Pacific.”

Its name is coined from Apolaki, the Filipino mythical god of the sun and chief patron of warriors. Its size justifies its literal meaning of “giant god” as the volcanic caldera is said to span approximately 150km — that’s the distance between Manila and Zambales! With this immense scale, the scientists themselves even compared it to an impact crater, as no caldera has ever been recorded with this titanic proportions!

Because of its monstrous size only parallel to calderas outside the planet, it may be the largest caldera in the world to scientists’ knowledge. Either way, this caldera unveiled a flash of the earth’s violent history. Apolaki not only signifies a valuable piece of our culture, but as well as the never-ending mystery of the earth’s surface we have yet to explore.

References:

Barretto, J., Wood, R., & Milsom, J. (2020). Benham Rise unveiled: Morphology and structure of an Eocene large igneous province in the West Philippine Basin. Marine Geology, 419, 106052.

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