Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Scientists observe eruption on Heard Island.

A group of scientists from the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have observed am eruption on Heard Island, a remote Australian territory in the southern Indian Ocean, while on a voyage to the remote Kerguelen Plateau in the Research Vessel Investigator. Eruptions on the island are thought to be quite common, but due to the remoteness of the location (nobody has set foot on the island for around 30 years) they tend not to be recorded unless they are large enough to be seen in satellite images.

A small volcanic plume emerging from the summit of Mawson Peak on Heard Island. Peter Harms/CSIRO.

Heard Island is part of the Kerguelen Plateau, a sunken microcontinent roughly 3000 km to the southwest of Australia, which is believed to have been part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana prior to its breakup. Most of the microcontinent is now an average of 600 m below the sea surface but the volcanic Kerguelen Islands plus the Heard and MacDonald Islands still rise above sealevel. Volcanism on the plateau began during the breakup of Gondwana, with the formation of the Kerguelen Hotspot between the landmasses that went on to become India and Antarctica, and is still going on to a minor extent on Heard and MacDonald Islands. The area is thought to have been covered with Conifer forests during the Cretaceous, and the islands still host unique floral communities.

 The approximate location of Heard Island. Google Maps.

The scientists were in the area primarily to study underwater plumes associated with submarine volcanoes on the Kerguelen Plateau, of which about fifty have been observed to date, and were not confident of seeing the islands of the region at all, due to constant heavy cloud cover in the region, but in the event have witnessed plumes over both Heard and MacDonald islands, as well as lava flowing over the surface of a glacier on Heard Island.

Video footage of eruptive activity on Heard Island shot by scientists on the RV Investigator. Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies.

See also... on Heard Island.                                A United States Air Force satellite detected an ash plume above Heard Island, an uninhabited volcanic island roughly in the Southern Ocean, midway between Madagascar, Antarctica and Australia on Friday 30... activity on Heard Island.              Heard Island is a remote volcanic island on the Kerguelen Plateau in the southern Indian Ocean. It is made up of two volcanoes, the larger Big Ben to the southeast and the smaller Mount Dixon...
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