Scientists aboard the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's (CSIRO) Marine National Facility ship set out to study underwater volcanoes in the Southern Indian Ocean. In the process, the researchers captured something rare: video of Australia's largest volcano, Big Ben, as it erupted.
Big Ben is located on sub-Antarctic Heard Island, home to one of Australia's highest mountains, Mawson Peak, and considered one the most isolated places in the world. Because of that remoteness, Big Ben's eruptions (a total of only three in the last 15 years) have gone largely unobserved except for satellite imagery.
The wonder of the researchers' discovery was not lost on Mike Coffin, a professor with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and the voyage's chief scientist.
"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," Coffin said in a statement. "We have 10 excited geoscientists aboard Investigator, and our enthusiasm has spread to our 50 shipmates."