The Land Down Under is already famous for being home to countless poisonous spiders and snakes, an abnormally large population of great white sharks, and dinosaur-sized crocodiles. Now it appears that Australia is also home to the world’s longest chain of continental volcanoes.
Wondering how this huge chain of volcanoes is just now being discovered? Turns out it has been hiding in plain sight, more or less. Scientists and locals have long known about the numerous now dormant volcanoes spread across the continent, they just never realized that the smaller chains of volcanoes are actually all connected as part of one mega chain.
The chain of volcanoes stretches roughly north-to-south across the eastern quarter of Australia. Starting at the Hillsborough volcano, near Townsville in the north, and ending at Cosgrove volcano near Melbourne, the volcano chain is now believed to be the largest chain of land volcanoes in the world. Another volcano on Tasmania is believed to also be connected to the chain.
The eastern portion of Australia has long been known for its past volcanic activity, with several regions previously known to scientists. Volcanoes in the south of Australia are younger than those found in the north, but most of them now lie extinct or dormant.
Scientists now believe that what were once thought to be seperate tracks of volcanic activity are actually all part of the same chain and were once all connected by a mantle plume that had melted the crust of the Australian plate millions of years ago. Using radioactive isotopes, scientists at the Australian National University have now come to the conclusion that all of the volcanoes were formed at the same time, by the same hotspot between 9 and 33 million years ago.
Most volcanoes on continental Australia are now extinct, and no volcano has erupted since long before European settlers arrived.
While most of Australia’s volcanoes have long since gone silent, scientists are still just learning about the country’s volcanic history. Just last year three ancient volcanoes were discovered. Meanwhile, earlier this past summer, several extinct volcanoes were found off the coast of Sydney.
Interestingly, Australia lies just outside of the Pacific ocean’s ring of fire. As continental plates have shifted, volcanic activity has shifted to different regions of the world.