American Oceans

Ancient Underwater Mountain Range Discovered in Southern Ocean

a mountain range in the ocean

During an extensive seafloor survey by an Australian and international team of researchers, an extraordinary underwater architecture was uncovered within the fierce grasp of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Mapping efforts in the Southern Ocean revealed a breathtaking mountain range beneath the waves, featuring eight majestic, yet slumbering volcanoes, their summits rising as high as 1,500 meters from the seafloor, which themselves lie 4,000 meters beneath the ocean’s surface.

Dr. Chris Yule, a geophysicist with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, along with the team aboard the research vessel Investigator, dedicated five weeks to understand how this natural undersea fortress influences the melting of Antarctic ice shelves. Their efforts have resulted in the identification of four previously unknown volcanoes and the detailed mapping of two seamounts and a fault line ridge, thus enriching our understanding of the southernmost ocean’s floor.

The Australian CSIRO’s research vessel was part of a broader mission aligned with the capabilities of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite, a project of NASA and the French space agency CNES. Such collaborative ventures provide unparalleled insights into the minutiae of ocean topography by integrating space-based observations with those conducted at sea.

As Dr. Benoit Legresy and Dr. Helen Phillips underscore, this research is instrumental in deciphering the role of oceans as “climate shock absorbers.” Embracing over 90% of the excess heat from global warming, what happens in this silent, submerged realm is crucial for predicting and combating climate change impacts. The confluence of ocean currents with the rugged landscape below influences the spread of heat toward the frozen continent of Antarctica, affecting ice melt and sea-level rise.

These submerged volcanic formations are definitive proof of our ocean basins’ dynamic and tectonically active nature, a concept initially proposed by Alfred Wegener and later elaborated through the theories of plate tectonics and seafloor spreading. The mapping of this underwater mountain range constitutes a significant milestone in marine science, contributing to our understanding of tectonic movements, oceanic crust composition, and mid-ocean ridges that continuously reshape the Earth.

Add comment