Underwater Volcanoes Create Whales’ Very Own Route 66

Earth’s oceans hold mysteries that our most advanced technology has still not come close to uncovering. Hidden beneath layers upon layers of marine life are millions of habitats that have never been witnessed by a human eye.

One of these corners of the world has finally been revealed. A crew of sea-ready scientists and researchers from the University of Tasmania set sail for a 25-day tour of the Tasman Sea. Their goal of studying ocean productivity was not only met — It was exceeded.

Surveying The Tasman Sea

The trek began smoothly enough, with researchers mainly focusing on the activity of phytoplankton on the ocean floor. When the team hit 250 miles east of Tasmania, things took a turn for the best. Heat from the phytoplankton activity seemed to be flourishing in this particular area. Upon closer observation, scientists were shocked. Jutting up three miles below the water’s surface was a chain of large land masses. These massive (and slightly daunting) masses were underwater volcanoes, or seamounts. Scientists had hit the phytoplankton jackpot.

Carbon converting wasn’t the only thing to be excited about. Soon, hordes of marine life began to reveal themselves. Most impressive was the schools of humpback and long-finned pilot whales that seemed to circle and navigate between the chain of volcanoes. In fact, with continued study of their movements, scientists realized that they had stumbled upon a gigantic whale superhighway.

Underwater Traffic Jams

The chain of seamounts stretched out across the bottom of the Tasman Sea, creating a sort of route for the marine life living amongst it. Some of the mountain tops reigned 2 miles above the ocean floor, towering over the creatures like underwater skyscrapers. Researchers began studying the movement of the whales that resided there. It seemed as if this highway was a perfect setup to assist in navigating from their breeding grounds in the winter and their feeding grounds in the summer.

Recognizing this information was pretty exciting. The team from the University of Tasmania felt re-invigorated after a discovery the literal size of this one. Scientists theorized that the mountain range was a result of ancient volcanic activity, leaving a sunken treasure trove unseen by the human eye.

Future Tasmanian Treks

In addition to the whale population, researchers were thrilled to discover thousands of diverse groups of marine life, all existing peacefully and productively amongst the ragged edges of the volcanoes. In fact, it seems to be because of the seascape that the marine life is thriving. By providing these unique habitats, the seamounts have become home to millions of different species. Some of these species may be waiting to be discovered.


The team from the University of Tasmania is already planning two additional trips to the newly discovered community, one in November and one in December. They are hoping to witness the migration habits of the whales as well as continuing to study the ecosystems that flourish there. Along with the same team, high-definition cameras will be brought this time around to capture the incredible seamounts and the marine life that call it home.