Australia’s new ship ‘Investigator’ discovers underwater volcanoes

13 Jul 2015

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Investigator, Australia’s brand new ocean-going research vessel, has discovered a series of underwater volcanoes off Australia’s south-east coast, 250km from Sydney.

Investigating the ocean floor between Australia and New Zealand, Investigator made the find in water almost five kilometres deep.

In what was supposed to be research into larval lobster nurseries in the ocean’s depths, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) discovered the four extinct volcanoes, thought to be more than 50 million years old.

‘It’s a kick-arse ship. We should be so proud of it’
– PROFESSOR IAIN SUTHERS

The previous research vessel couldn’t map to the same depth (reaching just 3,000m) so this could actually be the start of a wave (sorry, not sorry) of fresh discoveries.

“On board the Investigator we have sonar that can map the sea floor to any depth, so all of Australia’s vast ocean territory is now within reach, and that is enormously exciting,” said volcano expert Richard Arculus, with the below reading of the volcanoes released by CSIRO:

Australia volcanoes shocking, but in a good way

Oceanographer Moninya Roughan, one of the scientists aboard the vessel, was shocked by the discovery, considering the contrasting project the team were supposed to be working on.

It was the final leg of the journey, with the night-time discovery coming as Investigator set a path from Forster to Sydney.

“We had the swathe mappers going constantly throughout the cruise and two support staff who were constantly watching the output and reporting on any features,” said Roughan.

“One of the guys came up and said, ‘Look at these new volcanoes that have never been discovered before’.”

What about the lobsters?

Of course, the Investigator did, in fact, make some lobster-related discoveries, too. It turns out there is an eddy off Sydney that is a hotspot for lobster larvae, despite it not being the right time of year for it.

Professor Iain Suthers, who led the research voyage, claims this discovery completely revolutionises previous understanding of juvenile commercial fish species.

“We had thought fish only developed in coastal estuaries, and that once larvae were swept out to sea that was end of them. But, in fact, these eddies are nursery grounds for commercial fisheries along the east coast of Australia,” he said.

“It’s a kick-arse ship. We should be so proud of it,” he added.

Some of the lobster discoveries include the Idiacanthidae (left), larval lobster (right) and the terrifying deep sea fish (bottom):

Idiacanthidae and Larval Lobster - Australia Volcano

Deep Sea Fish - Australia Volcano

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt is senior communications and context executive at NDRC. He previously worked as a journalist with Silicon Republic.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com