On the seafloor off the Australian Coast, there is cluster of volcanoes that are 50 million years old.
While they were searching for lobster larvae, the researchers of Marine National Facility stumbled upon this finding.
Lying only 250 kilometers off the shore of Sydney, the ancient volcanoes remained hidden underwater, without any clue to their existence. For the researchers looking into mapping lobster larvae location, the discovery was nothing short of surprising.
Previously, the Marine National Facility did not have the technological capabilities to look so deep into the seafloor. Since the Marine National Facility was equipped with Investigator, a state of the art research vessel, sonar mapping the seafloor became an increasingly easier task.
The previous research vessel called Souther Survivor served the Marine National Facility well. Yet, its sonar mapping capabilities stopped at 10,000 feet below the sea level.
Following sonar mapping of the area off the Australian Coast, the discovery of a volcano cluster comprised of four extinct volcanoes, the researchers believed they have opened a new window for insight into geology and seafloor mapping:
“They tell us part of the story of how New Zealand and Australia separated around 40-80 million years ago and they’ll now helo scientist target future exploration of the sea floor to unlock the secrets of the Earth’s crust”,
commented Richard Arculus, coming from the Australian National University.
According to the team of researchers, what was previously uncharted territory could now provide a wealth of information on the split of Australia and New Zealand, as well as to the seafloor activity.
The four volcanoes are currently estimated to be 50 million years old and appear on the map as calderas. These form following the eruption of a volcano, so powerful that it leads to collapse of the land around it. One of the four volcanoes has 1.5 kilometers in diameter over its rim, with the caldera rising above the seafloor at 700 meters.
Moninya Roughan of the New South Wales University, who was on the Investigator when sonar mapping revealed the four volcanoes stated:
“To be honest, it came as a complete surprise and it was sheer serendipity”.
Sheer serendipity as it may be, Investigator and the team aboard brought to light a cluster of volcanoes previously lost to the world.
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