A team of researchers in Australia using 3D seismic reflection – a geo-mapping technique that uses seismic waves to measure subsurface structures have discovered 26 volcanoes formed millions of years ago under the sea south of Australia. The team belonging to the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, the University of Adelaide, Australia, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia, used a technology similar to the one used for ultrasound imaging of babies.
The group of volcanoes dating back to almost 35 million years is similar to the area called Mordor in the fictional series the “Lord of the Rings,” which is dubbed as the “Tolkienesque” landscape. The volcanic terrain is 21 miles (34 km) in length and 9.3 miles (15 km) wide, showing a vast expanse of the early day volcanoes.
The visually beautiful terrain that appears in the images was formed approximately 35 million years ago by a series of volcanic eruptions on the ocean bed, at a little distance from the coast of southern Australia called the Great Australian Bight, a large open bay off the southern coastline of mainland Australia. These volcanoes were buried about 820 feet under the sediments on the seabed, while some volcanoes being as high as around 2,000 feet (625 meters).
“By using data acquired as part of oil exploration efforts, we have been able to map these ancient lava flows in unprecedented detail, revealing a spectacular volcanic landscape that brings to mind illustrations from Lord of the Rings,” Dr Nick Schofield, co-author of the study, University of Aberdeen’s School of Geosciences said in a statement.
Due to their apparent inaccessibility, the submarine lava flows are comparatively more difficult to study than their counterparts on the Earth’s surface. By the help of this newly developed technique, the scientists and the researchers can have detailed study about a landscape that has apparently remained hidden for millions of years, highlighting the ever-increasing significance of the seismic data in the study of submarine volcanism.
The imaging process includes the use of ultrasensitive devices called geophones that are used to record the sound waves after they echo in the sea due to reflections from the seabed. These echoes are further studied to estimate the depth and structures of buried geologic formations, which helps in determining potential locations of oil and gas-bearing reservoirs, which was the initial motive for the surprising discovery.
Discovery as such will subsequently reveal infinitely possible secrets that are yet unknown to the humankind, and aid in better understanding of the whole new world under the sea.