Active submarine volcanoes found near Fiji

Jun 19, 2008
Volcano Named Lobster
Caption: A multibeam sonar three-dimensional image of the recently discovered volcano named Lobster. Credit: Richard Arculus, Australian National University

Several huge active submarine volcanoes, spreading ridges and rift zones have been discovered northeast of Fiji by a team of Australian and American scientists aboard the Marine National Facility Research Vessel, Southern Surveyor.

On the hunt for subsea volcanic and hot-spring activity, the team of geologists located the volcanoes while mapping previously uncharted areas. Using high-tech multi-beam sonar mapping equipment, digital images of the seafloor revealed the formerly unknown features.

The summits of two of the volcanoes, named 'Dugong', and 'Lobster', are dominated by large calderas at depths of 1100 and 1500 metres.

During the six-week research expedition in the Pacific Ocean, scientists from The Australian National University (ANU), CSIRO Exploration & Mining and the USA, collaborated to survey the topography of the seafloor, analysing rock types and formation, and monitoring deep-sea hot spring activity around an area known as the North Lau Basin, 400 kilometres northeast of Fiji.

The voyage's Chief Scientist, ANU Professor Richard Arculus describes the terrain – the result of extreme volcanic and tectonic activity – as spectacular. "Some of the features look like the volcanic blisters seen on the surface of Venus," he says.

"These active volcanoes are modern day evidence of mineral deposition such as copper, zinc, and lead and give an insight into the geological make-up of Australia," he says.

"It provides a model of what happened millions of years ago to explain the formation of the deposits of precious minerals that are currently exploited at places like Broken Hill and Mt Isa. It may also provide exploration geologists with clues about new undiscovered mineral deposits in Australia.

"These deep-sea features are important in understanding the influences that have shaped not only our unique continent but indeed the whole planet," Professor Arculus says.

Such discoveries highlighted man's lack of knowledge about the world's oceans. "We know more about the surface of Mars than we know about the ocean seafloor," Professor Arculus says.

CSIRO's Director of Research Vessels, Captain Fred Stein, says the expedition was a humbling experience. "It was a reminder that at the beginning of the 21st century it is still possible – on what is often regarded as a thoroughly explored planet – to discover a previously unknown massif larger than Mt Kosciuszko," he says.

"We are fortunate that we can offer the scientific capability of the Southern Surveyor to Australian scientists. It's the only Australian research vessel that can provide the opportunity to conduct such valuable research to make these kinds of discoveries possible."

Source: CSIRO Australia

Explore further: Strong quake hits east Indonesia; no tsunami threat

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Getting to the bottom of the Fijian Ocean

Jun 13, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Scientists will soon have a greater understanding of the dramatically spreading, rifting and faulting boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, thanks to research from The Australian ...

Submerged volcanoes pose tsunami threat

Jul 28, 2005

One of the world’s most active volcanic areas is a relatively unknown part of the seabed between New Zealand and Tonga, and could trigger a devastating tsunami at any moment, ANU geologist Professor Richard ...

Recommended for you

Barren deserts can host complex ecosystems in their soils

16 minutes ago

"Biological soil crusts" don't look like much. In fact, people often trample right over these dark, or green-tinted, sometimes raised patches in the desert soil. But these scruffy stretches can house delicate ...

Researchers on expedition to solve 'small island problem'

36 minutes ago

Researchers from the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering are starting their new year with an expedition to the island of South Georgia to carry out research into improving weather forecasting. You can follow the team's progress on their blog. ...

Strong quake hits east Indonesia; no tsunami threat

23 hours ago

A strong earthquake struck off the coast of eastern Indonesia on Sunday evening, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, and authorities said there was no threat of a tsunami.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.