An unprecedented underwater world of dead volcanoes has recently been discovered off the coast of Tasmania.
According to USA Today, Scientists with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said the seamounts were found during seafloor mapping, and they reach as high as 3,000 meters from the sea floor. These seamounts are features somewhat like mountains on the surface of the Earth, except for the fact that they arise directly from the seabed. They are located deep underwater and are also volcanic.
The discovery was made by a research vessel working off the coast of Australia--Investigator. This ship is part of the research arsenal of CSIRO, Australia’s science agency. The mission was a 25-day journey on the part of Australian National University (ANU) scientists.
Now, despite their location, researchers believe that they could be of major importance. This find should boost the marine biology in the area around Tasmania, the large island off the coast of Australia with which the new seamounts are associated.
The hills and valleys were likely formed many millennia ago by ancient volcanic activity. Dr. Tara Martin, from the CSIRO mapping team, said the chain rose up “from an abyssal plain about 5000m deep” and “offered a window into a previously unseen and spectacular underwater world”.
According to Martin, the seamounts vary in size and shape, with some having sharp peaks while others have wide flat plateaus, dotted with small conical hills that would have been formed by ancient volcanic activity.
There is also an indication that whales may actually be using the seafloor features as navigational aids during their migration. Dr. Eric Woehler from BirdLife Tasmania was an investigator with a team conducting seabird and marine mammal surveys. He said at least 28 individual humpback whales visited the boat in a single day, followed by a pod of 60-80 long-finned pilot whales the next.
“We also saw large numbers of seabirds in the area including four species of albatross and four species of petrel,” Woehler said.
The team now believe the seamounts are a “biological hotspot” and may act as an important signpost on an underwater highway for whales moving from their winter breeding to summer feeding grounds.
The range will be further studied later this year when Investigator returns to the region for research voyages in November and December and we are pretty sure that Mother Nature will surprise us with yet more amazing discoveries then.