A team of Australian researchers recently discovered four enormous underwater volcanoes during a search for lobster larvae off the coast of Sydney.
The extinct volcanoes are believed to be about 50 million years old and are situated just 250km off the coast.
The scientists from Australia’s national science agency (CSIRO) made use of Investigator, Australia’s new ocean-going research vessel, in order to spot the volcano cluster through sonar mapping of the sea floor.
The largest of the four volcanoes is 1.5km across the rim and rises 700m from the sea floor. The volcano cluster is approximately 20km-long and is 5km underwater.
According to the researchers, this discovery may lead to answers as to how Australia separated from New Zealand. Volcano expert, Richard Arculus, said that “this is the first time these volcanoes have been seen.”
Scientists hope that the discovery will lead them to better understand the Earth’s crust as it can “tell us part of the story of how New Zealand and Australia separated around 40 to 80 million years ago,” Richard Arculus said. It is believed that the volcanoes were created by a series of shifts in geological plates.
Professor Iain Suthers, a marine biologist at the University of NSW, said there is a big chance that there are other undiscovered volcanoes in the region, but the Investigator only operates 180 days per year as it doesn’t have enough funding.
The last volcanic eruption in Australia is approximately more than 5 000 years ago.