Earlier this year, Australia’s only volcano cluster erupted in spectacular fashion, spilling lava and emitting vapour.
Big Ben, located on the sub-Antarctic Heard Island, has erupted only three times since 2000. The peak of Big Ben, called Mawson Peak, is 2,745 metres tall
A CSIRO research vessel was nearby when plumes of smoke began pouring from Mawson Peak.
“When the weather cleared briefly we saw the volcano was erupting we saw vapour being emitted from the top of the volcano and we saw lava flows coming down the flank,” said the voyage’s Chief Scientist, IMAS Professor and geophysicist Mike Coffin.
While collecting data, the team were lucky to witness action from both volcanoes: “seeing vapour emanating from both of Australia’s active volcanoes and witnessing an eruption at Mawson Peak have been an amazing coda to this week’s submarine research,” he said.
The island, 4,100 kilometres south-west of Perth, is so remote that most eruptions are only caught on satellite imagery and never seen in person.
Jodi Fox, a Ph.D candidate on the expedition, said the moment completely defied her expectations and was incredible.
“Given persistent cloud cover and generally foul weather, I didn't think we'd even see Mawson Peak on this voyage,” she said.
[Images: Pete Harmsen]