Ancient cluster of volcanoes found off Sydney


Australia's peak government-backed scientific research organisation, the CSIRO, has found a cluster of ancient volcanoes just 200 kilometres off the coast of Sydney.

The calderas, which are estimated to be over 50 million years old, lie almost five kilometres beneath the ocean.

The discovery was made by the CSIRO's new research ship, the RV Investigator, but was really a matter of luck as researchers weren't even looking for the volcanoes – they were actually studying larval lobsters.

Investigator was actually in the area on other business – searching for the nursery grounds of larval lobsters – when it came across the cluster. The ship is constantly mapping the sea floor as it travels, opening up a previously undiscovered and unknown world. Our previous research vessel could only map to 3,000 metres, missing important geological features like the calderas. Investigator can map the ocean to any depth.

The team also found what they were looking for. You can see the alien-like lobster larvae and other juvenile fish species they discovered on the organisation's news blog here.

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Bill Condie is publisher of Cosmos.