ANU expert assisting underwater volcano study

8 January 2016

Investigator's specialised research capabilities will allow us to systematically map the submarine portion of the central Kerguelen Plateau and surrounding abyssal ocean floor, and unlock the secrets of this globally important volcanic system.

World leading ANU volcano expert Professor Richard Arculus has set sail for the Southern Ocean to study undersea volcanoes and the impact they have on marine organisms in the nearby waters.

Professor Arculus and experts from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania will spend 58 days on the CSIRO's Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator visiting remote subantarctic Heard and McDonald Islands.

The islands are 4,000 km south-west of Perth and 2,000 km north of Australia's base at Davis Station in Antarctica.

Professor Arculus, from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences, is a Co-Chief Scientist on the voyage.

"Investigator's specialised research capabilities will allow us to systematically map the submarine portion of the central Kerguelen Plateau and surrounding abyssal ocean floor, and unlock the secrets of this globally important volcanic system," Professor Arculus said.

"Using Investigator's sea floor mapping and sub-sea floor acoustic systems, we will survey active hydrothermal systems ("black smokers") and submarine volcanoes, which we think could be distributed for several hundred kilometres over the seafloor surrounding Heard and McDonald islands."

The voyage will allow scientists to capture 3D images of the seafloor while they will also be able to collect rock, sediment and sea water samples to track hydrothermal fluids from the seafloor to the ocean's surface.