Mordor Under the Sea Found Off Australia

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]