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Australian volcano erupts in Southern Ocean
SYDNEY (AFP) Aug 10, 2005
A volcano on Australia's remote, tiny and uninhabited McDonald Island in the Southern Ocean is erupting for the first time since 2001, when lava flows had doubled its size, the government announced Wednesday.

Satellite images detected the volcanic activity on the World Heritage listed sub-Antarctic island 4,100 kilometres (2,540 miles) southwest of Australia, said Environment Minister Ian Campbell.

The volcano lay dormant for 75,000 years before erupting for the first time in 1992, he said.

There have been several eruptions since then, the last in 2001 when satellite images showed the size of the island had doubled from 1.13 to 2.45 square kilometres.

"The McDonald Island volcano is unusual because unlike most oceanic volcanoes, it sits on a submarine plateau, which means its eruptions are not as wild and fiery as some -- instead producing a slow-moving mass of lava that seeps and spreads," Campbell said.

"Despite the slow-moving nature of the lava, eruptions over the past 13 years have caused startling changes to the island's geography, obliterating some landmarks and creating new ones.

"While people tend to think of volcanoes as destructive, this remarkable natural phenomenon is also productive, creating new land that will make the island more attractive to seabirds, particularly the king penguin."

Campbell said "almost nothing" is known of McDonald Island "because its uninviting terrain and surrounding hazardous seas make it virtually impossible to get ashore."

The island is within the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve, one of the world's biggest at 6,5000 square kilometres.

Heard Island, some 44 kilometres from McDonald Island, also has an active volcano, but it has been quiet for years.

The barren islands, lying in a remote and stormy part of the globe and populated only by large numbers of seal and bird species, were transferred from British administration to Australia in 1947.

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