Australia home to the longest continental volcanic chain


Cape Hillsborough, Queensland, the most northern tip of the track. Source: Flickr
Cape Hillsborough, Queensland, the northern tip of the track. Source: Flickr

The world’s longest continental volcanic chain has been discovered along the eastern coast of Australia.

Named the “Cosgrove track“, the chain stretches 2000 kilometres from Cosgrove in Victoria, up through central New South Wales to the most northern tip in Cape Hillsborough on the central coast of Queensland.

Dr Rhodri Davies from Australian National University says this is a rare example of a continental track as these types of volcanoes are usually found on the ocean floor.

“There is a specific class of volcanoes that occur within plates and we call these intraplates, volcanic regions, and the best examples are on the ocean floor so they are hard to study,” Dr Davies said.

“There are however some on continents, with the most famous being the Yellowstone hotspot track on the North American continent.

“The track we’ve discovered in Australia is another example of a continental hotspot track, but it’s around three times the length of the Yellowstone track and actually is one of the first places on earth where we’ve been able to see what controls the location of the volcanoes and their composition.”

“The first part of the track is at Cape Hillsborough in Queensland and it erupted 300 million years before present,” he said.

“The most recent eruption along the track was at Cosgrove in Victoria, so right on the other side of the Australian continent essentially and that was 9 million years before present.”

According to the study Australians have no need to worry about volcanic activity in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, however the northwest coast of Tasmania is predicted as the next area to encounter an eruption.

“There is a chance within the next couple of million years of an eruption, most likely on the sea floor in that region,” Dr Davies said.

Civil engineer Michael Charles believes the Indo-Australian plate is unique due to its thin shape and says the continent is moving north at a quick pace.

“The entire continent of Australia is moving at a fast pace north which is causing the whole plate to buckle which is the root cause of many of the earthquakes in the area over the last decade,” Mr Charles said.

Dr Davies says the Australian continent is moving at a speed of seven centimetres per year, which is fast in geological terms.

“Australia is technically the fastest moving continent,” he said.


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