Video footage has been released of a volcano erupting on Heard Island, an Australian external territory in northern Antarctica. The volcano, named Big Ben, is the highest mountain on the territory and is known to have erupted at least three times since 2000, according to the Institute of Maritime and Antarctic Studies (IMAS).
The crew of the Investigator, a CSIRO research vessel manned by Australian and international scientists, captured the eruption on 30 January while on a 58-day expedition in the area. The voyage's chief scientist, IMAS professor and geophysicist Mike Coffin, said the sight of an erupting volcano was an unexpected treat for the crew.
He said: "When the weather cleared briefly we saw that the volcano was erupting. We saw vapour being emitted from the top of the volcano and we saw lava flows coming down the flank of Big Ben.
"This is a very exciting observation, there are very few ships that come to this part of the world and the last geological expedition to land on Heard Island was in 1987. Seeing land after being at sea for a couple of weeks is always exciting but to see dynamic earth processes such as volcanos erupting is an added bonus."
Scientists on the voyage are studying the link between active volcanoes on the sea floor and the mobilisation of iron, which supports life in the Southern Ocean, IMAS said in a statement. The remote Australian Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands is 4,100km south-west of Perth and 1,750km north of Davis Station, Australia's base in Antarctica.