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Fri Jan 19, 2018, 08:27 PM

Can Hobbits Swim? 'Mordor Under the Sea' Found Off Australia

By Brandon Specktor, Senior Writer | January 19, 2018 01:51pm ET

- click for image -


Researchers discovered 26 underwater volcanoes that date to 35 million years ago near Australia.
Credit: P. Reynolds, S. Holford, N. Schofield, and A. Ross

Today in news best suited for sneaky little Hobbitses and Shire-folk, scientists unveiled a map of a faraway volcanic realm that has a distinct look of Mordor about it. Unfortunately for any ring bearers, the molten landscape has probably been hidden underwater for millions of years.

The "Tolkienesque" region of submarine volcanoes buried beneath the sea south of Australia was discovered by a team of researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia, the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia. The team employed 3D seismic reflection, a geo-mapping technique that uses seismic waves to measure subsurface structures. With this technology, the researchers identified 26 separate volcanoes buried roughly 820 feet (250 meters) beneath seabed sediment. Some of the ancient volcanoes reach up to 2,000 feet (625 m) in height and are surrounded by several lava features never before studied underwater, the study said.

"The technology we have used is similar in many ways to what is used to produce ultrasound images of babies, but for the Earth," study author Nick Schofield, a senior lecturer at the University of Aberdeen's School of Geosciences, said in a statement released Wednesday (Jan. 17). "By using this technique, we have a unique insight into a landscape that has remained hidden for millions of years." [Dark Waters: The World's Most Mysterious Places on The Seas]

In the study, which was published in the November 2017 edition of theAmerican Geophysical Union's journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, researchers dated the volcanoes to the Eocene epoch, which took place roughly 50 million to 33 million years ago. The network of remarkable lava flows surrounding the volcanoes known collectively as the Bight Basin Igneous Complex was likely created during an undersea eruption roughly 35 million years ago, the study said.


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