Scientists Name Underwater Volcanic Massif After Landmarks Featured In The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy
Looking like the Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, an ancient underwater volcano was revealed by multibeam sonar 3,100 meters below the surface of the sea, 280 kilometres southeast of Christmas Island, Australia.
The discovery was made during the most recent expedition of the RV Investigator, an ocean research vessel mapping Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories.
Previously unknown and unimagined, this volcano appears as a giant oval-shaped depression called a caldera, 6.2 by 4.8 kilometers across. It is surrounded by a 300 meter-high rim (resembling Sauron’s eyelids), and has a 300 meter high cone-shaped peak at its the centre (the “pupil”). A caldera is formed when a volcano collapses. The molten magma at the base of the volcano shifts upwards, leaving empty chambers. The thin solid crust on the surface of the dome then collapses, creating a large crater-like structure. Often, a small new peak then begins to form in the centre as the volcano continues spewing magma.
In the fantasy novel Lord of the Rings by English author and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien, the Dark Lord Sauron rules over Mordor, a realm characterized by black, volcanic plains surrounding the active volcano Mount Doom, the only place in Middle-earth with fire hot enough to forge (and destroy) the One Ring.
The Eye of Sauron is part of a much larger volcanic massif. Further mapping to the south revealed a smaller sea mountain covered in numerous volcanic cones, and further still to the south was a larger, flat-topped seamount. Following the Lord of the Rings theme, the researchers have nicknamed them Barad-dûr and Ered Lithui, respectively. Barad-dûr, the Dark Fortress, was Sauron’s primary stronghold in Mordor, serving as his base of operations in Middle-earth. The Ered Lithui, or the Ash Mountains, constituted a mountain range that formed the northern border of his realm.
The Eye of Sauron, Barad-dûr, and Ered Lithui are part of the Karma cluster of seamounts that have been previously estimated by geologists to be more than 100 million years old, and which formed next to an ancient sea ridge from a time when Australia was situated much further south, near Antarctica. The flat summit of Ered Lithui was formed by wave erosion when the seamount protruded above the sea surface, before the heavy seamount slowly sank back down into the soft ocean seafloor. The summit of Ered Lithui is now 2.6 kilometers below sea level.