Lord of the Rings: Underwater volcano off the coast of Australia resembles the ‘Eye of Sauron’

An underwater volcano resembling the ‘Eye of Sauron’ – the fiery manifestation of the evil dark lord from the Lord of the Rings films – has been found off the coast of Australia.

Researchers at CSIRO, the Australian research firm, mapped the feature using underwater sonar during a journey exploring the Indian Ocean territories.

Aboard the research vessel Investigator, the team discovered the eye lookalike at a depth of 10,171 feet below sea level, some 274 miles southeast of Christmas Island.

Scans revealed the volcano as an oval-shaped depression 3.9 by 3 miles wide, with a 984-foot-high rim resembling eyelids and a central peak similar in size to a pupil.

To the south of the “eye,” the team also found a seamount covered in volcanic cones, and beyond it a larger, flat seamount covered in pumice.

In keeping with their theme, they have named them Barad-dûr (the “dark fortress” with the eye of Sauron in the movie trilogy) and Ered Lithui (“Ash Mountains”).

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was published between 1954 and 1955 by writer JRR Tolkien and made into a film by director Peter Jackson in the early 2000s.

A volcano resembling the ‘Eye of Sauron’ – the fiery manifestation of the dark lord from the Lord of the Rings movies has been found off the coast of Australia. Scans revealed the volcano as an oval-shaped depression 3.9 by 3 miles wide, with a 984-foot-high rim resembling eyelids and a central peak similar in size to a pupil

Researchers at CSIRO, the Australian research firm, mapped the feature using underwater sonar during a journey exploring the Indian Ocean territories.  Pictured: The Eye of Sauron as depicted in the Peter Jackson film trilogy, atop Barad-dûr

Researchers at CSIRO, the Australian research firm, mapped the feature using underwater sonar during a journey exploring the Indian Ocean territories. Pictured: The Eye of Sauron as depicted in the Peter Jackson film trilogy, atop Barad-dûr

‘The Eye of Sauron, Barad-dûr and Ered Lithui are part of the Karma cluster of seamounts previously estimated by geologists to be more than 100 million years old,’ wrote travel companion Tim O’Hara in The conversation.

These, added the marine biologist at Museums Victoria, “formed next to an old sea ridge from a time when Australia was much further south, near Antarctica.”

“The flat top of Ered Lithui was formed by wave erosion as the seafloor rose above the sea surface, before the heavy seafloor slowly sank back into the soft ocean floor.”

At the present time, he explained, the top of ‘Ered Lithui’ is now about 2.5 miles below the surface of the Indian Ocean.’

The volcanic ‘eye’, Dr O’Hara explains, represents something of a geological conundrum — because the caldera (volcanic crater) ‘looks surprisingly fresh for a structure that is supposed to be over 100 million years old’.

In contrast, he noted, the top of Ered Lithui is draped in about 100 meters of mud and sand layers formed from the remains of dead sea creatures that sink to the seafloor over millions of years.

This same rate of sediment accumulation should have partially suffocated the caldera, Dr O’Hara noted, adding: “Instead, it’s possible volcanoes continued to sprout or new ones formed long after the original foundation.” Our restless earth never stands still.’

Despite this geological activity, the team found that Ered Lithui — quite unlike its inhospitable fictional counterpart — teems with life.

The mission saw brittle stars, starfish, crabs and worms moving across the sand surface, while barnacles, corals, sea whips and sponges can be found on exposed rocks and cusk eels and batfish watching for prey.

Aboard the research vessel Investigator, the team discovered the eye-lookalike at a depth of 10,171 feet below sea level, some 274 miles southeast of Christmas Island.

Aboard the research vessel Investigator, the team discovered the eye-lookalike at a depth of 10,171 feet below sea level, some 274 miles southeast of Christmas Island.

The first leg of the journey — the leg to the Christmas Island region — is nearing completion, Dr O'Hara reported.  The team will pick up the second leg and venture further west to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the coming years.  Pictured: The sonar trail of the journey

The first leg of the journey — the leg to the Christmas Island region — is nearing completion, Dr O’Hara reported. The team will pick up the second leg and venture further west to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the coming years. Pictured: The sonar trail of the journey

In addition to mapping the seafloor, the purpose of the RV Investigator’s mission in the Indian Ocean is to investigate such creatures that live in these remote depths — many of whom are expected to be new to science.

‘The Australian government recently announced plans to establish two massive marine parks in the regions,’ wrote Dr O’Hara.

“Our expedition will provide scientific data that will help Parks Australia manage these areas in the future,” he added.

The first leg of the journey — the leg to the Christmas Island region — is nearing completion, Dr O’Hara reported. The team will pick up the second leg and venture further west to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the coming years.

Despite the likely geological activity, the team found that Ered Lithui — quite unlike its fictional counterpart — teems with life.  Pictured: a batfish, one of the inhabitants of Ered Lithui

Despite the likely geological activity, the team found that Ered Lithui — quite unlike its fictional counterpart — teems with life. Pictured: a batfish, one of the inhabitants of Ered Lithui

The mission saw brittle stars, starfish (pictured), crabs and worms moving across the sand surface, while barnacles, corals, sea whips and sponges can be found atop exposed rocks, and cusk eels and batfish keep an eye out for prey

The mission saw brittle stars, starfish (pictured), crabs and worms moving across the sand surface, while barnacles, corals, sea whips and sponges can be found atop exposed rocks, and cusk eels and batfish keep an eye out for prey

SONAR EXPLAINED

Military equipment and animals that use sonar simply use an echo.

When an animal or machine makes noise, it sends sound waves into the environment.

Those waves bounce off nearby objects, and some of them reflect back toward the object that made the sound.

It’s those reflected sound waves you hear when your voice bounces back to you from a chasm.

Whales and specialized machines can use reflected waves to locate distant objects and sense their shape and movement.

Undersea sonars are responsible for deadly mass strandings of deep-diving toothed whales.

Sonar is thought to disrupt the animals’ diving behavior so much that they develop a condition similar to “the curves” human divers can make if they surface too quickly.

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