Five major submarine volcanoes in the Kermadec Arc, northeast of the Bay of Plenty, will be probed for mineral deposits and hydrothermal activity by a New Zealand-led group of international scientists.

Scientists from the United States, Australia and Switzerland and New Zealand will spend the next three weeks on the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric (Niwa) research vessel Tangaroa, using a free-diving robotic vehicle to explore the mineral potential of the volcanoes and their unique biodiversity.

The voyage is the first project in an international programme involving GNS Science, Niwa, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Whoi) from the United States.