Scientists Find And Name New Underwater Volcanoes After Lord Of The Rings Symbols

The Eye of Sauron is not just a prominent Lord of the Rings symbol. It's now also the name of an underwater volcano discovered in Australia's Indian Ocean Territories.

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As is the case with most villains, Sauron is probably not dead--and scientists have discovered a new underwater volcano resembling the omnipresent Eye of Sauron, indicating he's always watching and his power is always around.

In a report for The Conversation, Museums Victoria's senior curator of marine invertebrates Tim O'Hara said the underwater volcano was "revealed by multibean sonar 3,100 meters below" the RV Investigator research vessel. The oval formation, known as a caldera, is approximately 4mi by 3mi across. It has a rim that's a little over a tenth of a mile high, as well as a tenth of a mile high cone-shaped peak at the center where the actual "pupil" is housed.

In essence, a caldera is a collapsed volcano. The molten magma travels upwards and, because of the empty chambers this creates, the volcano's dome surface caves in on itself. This causes a large crater where a small peaks often tends to form while the volcano continues to spew hot magma.

O'Hara said the team, which was on day 12 of exploring Australia's Indian Ocean Territories (southeast of Christmas Island), discovered two other underwater volcanic structures further south from the newly named Eye of Sauron. These have been nicknamed Barad-dûr (the "Dark Fortress," Sauron's primary stronghold in Mordor) and Ered Lithui ("Ash Mountains").

The Karma cluster. (Courtesy of Tim O'Hara, The Conversation.)
The Karma cluster. (Courtesy of Tim O'Hara, The Conversation.)

All three are part of the Karma cluster of seamounts (or submarine mountain ranges) that geologists estimated to be over 100 million years old. But according to O'Hara, the caldera looks "surprisingly fresh" for a structure that old. The team predicts that underwater volcanoes could remain active, sprouting new calderas long after the original foundation took its shape.

Meanwhile, Ered Lithui is now overrun with seafloor animals like batfish, brittle-stars, barnacles, crabs, cusk-eels. worms, sea-stars, and sponges. Perhaps Sauron has been invaded by SpongeBob SquarePants and his pals.

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