Washington, June 20 : A team of Australian and American scientists has found several huge active submarine volcanoes, spreading ridges and rift zones, northeast of Fiji.
On the hunt for subsea volcanic and hot-spring activity, the team of geologists aboard the Marine National Facility Research Vessel, Southern Surveyor, located the volcanoes while mapping previously uncharted areas.
During the six-week research expedition in the Pacific Ocean, scientists from The Australian National University (ANU), CSIRO Exploration and Mining and the USA, collaborated to survey the topography of the seafloor, analyzing rock types and formation, and monitoring deep-sea hot spring activity around an area known as the North Lau Basin, 400 kilometers northeast of Fiji.
According to the voyage's Chief Scientist, ANU Professor Richard Arculus, the terrain, which is the result of extreme volcanic and tectonic activity, is spectacular.
"Some of the features look like the volcanic blisters seen on the surface of Venus," he said. "These active volcanoes are modern day evidence of mineral deposition such as copper, zinc, and lead and give an insight into the geological make-up of Australia," he added.
It provides a model of what happened millions of years ago to explain the formation of the deposits of precious minerals that are currently exploited at places like Broken Hill and Mt Isa.
It may also provide exploration geologists with clues about new undiscovered mineral deposits in Australia.
"These deep-sea features are important in understanding the influences that have shaped not only our unique continent but indeed the whole planet," according to Professor Arculus.
According to CSIRO's Director of Research Vessels, Captain Fred Stein, the expedition was a humbling experience.
"It was a reminder that at the beginning of the 21st century it is still possible - on what is often regarded as a thoroughly explored planet - to discover a previously unknown massif larger than Mt Kosciuszko," he said.