250 kilometers off the Australian Coast, near Sydney, the ocean floor hides four extinct volcanoes. The discovery was made by a team of scientists looking for lobster larvae.
It was exciting and surprising for the team to find that until now there was no clue to the existence of the four ancient volcanoes, estimated to be 50 million years old.
According to the team, the four volcanoes are a valuable resource that could add to the knowledge of how New Zealand and Australia separated.
Richard Arculus from the Australian National University, stated:
“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”.
A fortuitous finding, the ancient volcanoes were discovered due to the technologically advanced vessel used currently by the Marine National Facility. The previous research vessel holds the name Southern Survivor and could only map down to 10,000 feet.
Now, the new research vessel, Investigator is equipped with a sonar that looks further down to the sea floor, aiding greatly in mapping previously uncharted territory. Sonar mapping revealed the four ancient volcanoes as calderas.
Calderas form after a volcano eruption that causes the land to collapse. The largest of the craters was mapped to rise 700 meters above the sea floor and measure 1.5 km over its rim. The 50 million years old volcanoes found as Investigator was mapping lobster larvae nursery grounds are deemed to be windows into the sea floor, according to the scientists.
Another scientists involved in the finding, Moninya Roughan from the University of New South Wales stated:
“To be honest, it came as a complete surprise and it was sheer serendipity”.
The sheer serendipity, enabled by the research vessel Investigator through deep water sonar mapping holds the key to further insight into geological and physical processes that led to the splitting of Australia and New Zealand, as well as to analyzing marine biodiversity thriving in the vicinity of the four ancient volcanoes cluster.
Photo Credits independent.co.uk