A mini-continent that was formerly joined to India has been discovered deep under the southern oceans by the world’s most powerful ice research vessel, said German scientists. They spoke as the ship, the Polarstern, docked on Saturday in its homeport of Bremerhaven, Germany, after a 19-month research voyage to Antarctica.
The ninth phase of the voyage was a study of the undersea Kerguelen Plateau, which was orphaned after the ancient continents separated, with India drifting away from Antarctica. The findings suggest that the plateau, about the size of Germany and France combined, is just the tip of a bigger piece of lost continental crust, the scientists said.
Geophysicists did seismic and magnetic surveys to explore the gap between the little-understood plateau and East Antarctica, the Alfred Wegener Institute of polar research in Bremerhaven said. “This plateau was created by a massive volcanic eruption shortly after India and Antarctica separated about 120 million years ago to form the Indian Ocean,” said geophysicist Karsten Gohl.
“For the first time, we have been able to see how the succession of volcanic deposits at the southern side of the Kerguelen Plateau, which reach right to the Antarctic continent, mostly have continental crust underneath them.
“Our findings show that a continental fragment of a size hitherto never suspected must have existed between India and the Antarctic.”