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(AUSTRALIA) CSIRO’S Undersea Volcano Report: Researchers discover an undersea volcano near Christmas Island that looks like the Eye of Sauron #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – July.26: A caldera is formed when a volcano collapses. The molten magma at the base of the volcano shifts upwards, leaving empty chambers. The thin solid crust on the surface of the dome then collapses, creating a large crater-like structure. Often, a small new peak then begins to form in the centre as the volcano continues spewing magma.

#AceDailyNews says researchers have been looking like the Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, an ancient undersea volcano was slowly revealed by multibeam sonar 3,100 metres below our vessel, 280 kilometres southeast of Christmas Island. This was on day 12 of our voyage of exploration to Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories, aboard CSIRO’s dedicated ocean research vessel, the RV Investigator.

A colourful image of the 'Eye of Sauron' volcano and nearby seamounts
Previously unknown and unimagined, this volcano emerged from our screens as a giant oval-shaped depression called a caldera.(Supplied: Phil Vandenbossche and Nelson Kuna, CSIRO)

Previously unknown and unimagined, this volcano emerged from our screens as a giant oval-shaped depression called a caldera, 6.2km by 4.8km across. It is surrounded by a 300 metre-high rim (resembling Sauron’s eyelids), and has a 300 metre-high cone-shaped peak at its the centre (the “pupil”).

A colourful image of the 'Eye of Sauron' volcano and nearby seamounts
Sonar image of the ‘Eye of Sauron’ volcano and nearby seamounts on the sea bed south-west of Christmas Island.(Supplied: Phil Vandenbossche and Nelson Kuna, CSIRO)

One well-known caldera is the one at Krakatoa in Indonesia, which exploded in 1883, killing tens of thousands of people and leaving only bits of the mountain rim visible above the waves. By 1927, a small volcano, Anak Krakatoa (“child of Krakatoa”), had grown in its centre.

In contrast, we may not even be aware of volcanic eruptions when they happen deep under the ocean. One of the few tell-tale signs is the presence of rafts of light pumice stone floating on the sea surface after being blown out of a submarine volcano. Eventually, this pumice stone becomes waterlogged and sinks to the ocean floor.

Our volcanic “eye” was not alone. Further mapping to the south revealed a smaller sea mountain covered in numerous volcanic cones, and further still to the south was a larger, flat-topped seamount. Following our Lord of the Rings theme, we have nicknamed them Barad-dûr (“Dark Fortress”) and Ered Lithui (“Ash Mountains”), respectively.

A diagram showing the voyage of the RV Investigator around Christmas Island
The voyage of the RV Investigator around Christmas Island.(Supplied: Tim O’Hara, Museums Victoria)

Although author J.R.R. Tolkien’s knowledge of mountain geology wasn’t perfect, our names are wonderfully appropriate given the jagged nature of the first and the pumice-covered surface of the second.

The Eye of Sauron, Barad-dûr, and Ered Lithui are part of the Karma cluster of seamounts that have been previously estimated by geologists to be more than 100 million years old, and which formed next to an ancient sea ridge from a time when Australia was situated much further south, near Antarctica.

The flat summit of Ered Lithui was formed by wave erosion when the seamount protruded above the sea surface, before the heavy seamount slowly sank back down into the soft ocean seafloor. The summit of Ered Lithui is now 2.6km below sea level.

An animated gif showing a flyover the Karma cluster of sea mountains
Small batfish patrol the seamount summits.(Supplied: Rob French, Museums Victoria)

#AceNewsDesk report …………Published: July.26: 2021:

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