One does not simply walk into Mordor. Especially if it's at the bottom of the ocean.
Scientists in Australia have found a region of the sea bed they say looks uncannily like the dark mountains of J.R.R. Tolkein's literary epic, "The Lord of the Rings."
Credit: P. Reynolds, S. Holford, N. Schofield, and A. Ross
The unsettling scenery was discovered below the waters of the Great Australian Bight, a large open bay off the southern coast of the country, by an international team of scientists conducting geological explorations for oil.
The team — a joint effort between Scotland's University of Aberdeen and Australia's University of Adelaide — was employing a special geo-mapping system that uses seismic reflection waves to create 3-D images of subsurface landscapes. The scientists say the technique is not dissimilar to the ultrasound technology used for monitoring the development of unborn babies.
The terrifying topography — called the Bight Basin Igneous Complex — consists of 26 jagged, towering peaks that, just like in the book, were created by volcanic explosion.
According to the team, they date from around 35 million years ago in the Eocene Epoch.
Because of the buildup of sediment over this incredible amount of time, the mountains of doom are now safely buried around 800 feet below the ocean floor. The region is over 20 miles in length, almost 10 miles wide, and the highest pinnacles stand at around 2,000 feet.
"We have been able to map these ancient lava flows with unprecedented detail, revealing a spectacular volcanic landscape," Dr. Nick Schofield from the School of Geosciences of the University of Aberdeen said in a statement. "We have a unique insight into a landscape that has remained hidden for millions of years."
His team was supported in their underwater adventures by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, a science and innovation body set up by the Australian government.