The considerable challenges of accessing unpredictable events at remote seafloor locations make submarine eruptions difficult to study in real time. The serendipitous discovery of two persistently active sites (NW Rota-1 in the Mariana arc, at ~550 m, and West Mata in the NE Lau basin at ~1200 m) resulted in multi-year, multi-parameter studies that included water column plume surveys and direct (ROV) observations. Intense magmatic-hydrothermal plumes rose buoyantly above both sites, while deep particle plume layers, dominated by fine ash and devoid of hydrothermal tracers, were found dispersing laterally on isopycnal surfaces at variable depths below the eruptive vents and above the seafloor. The presence or absence of deep ash plumes was directly correlated with explosive activity or quiescence, respectively. An estimated 0.4-14.6 x 105 m3/yr of fine ash entered the water column surrounding these volcanoes and remained suspended at distances exceeding 10’s of km. We show that deep ash plume layers in the water column are a common feature of explosive submarine eruptions at other sites as well, and that they demonstrate a syn-eruptive mode of transport for fine ash that will result in deposition as “hidden” cryptotephra or fallout deposits in marine sediments at distances greater than previously predicted. Cruise FK171110 extended the time series of observations at West Mata, and resulted in discovery of new lava flows emplaced after September 2012, with one constrained between March 2016 and November 2017. ROV dives confirmed that West Mata was quiescent during this expedition, but widespread deep ash plumes were present. Turbidity in the deep ash plumes decreased by 80% over a 25-day period, with an average loss of 3% (0.15-0.6 g/m2) per day, suggesting the eruption that formed the 2016-2017 eruptive deposits had occurred within 8-121 days prior to the FK171110 expedition. Future studies of submarine volcanic processes will depend on improved exploration and event detection capabilities. In addition to recognizing the characteristic hydrothermal event plumes rising into the water column above actively erupting sites, widespread ash plumes dispersing at depths deeper than eruptive vents can also be diagnostic of ongoing, or very recent, eruptions. We infer the eruptive status at other sites based on these criteria.