VIDEO: Exploring volcanic Victoria

By Jeremy Bourke 27 February 2017
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South-western Victoria is home to the third-largest volcanic plains in the world, with over 400 dormant volcanoes.

Read the full feature: Volcanoes in Victoria

ON A CLEAR BUT severe winter morning, when the wind cuts right through you, being atop Red Rock in south-western Victoria is still an impressive experience.

Just to the west is Victoria’s largest inland body of water, Lake Corangamite, where the cold could almost have us believe the white swirls on the surface are snow drifts. Yet they’re salt, for this shallow lake is generally three times saltier than the ocean.

Just below us is a large green crater, pockmarked by dozens of smaller craters, as if a golf-course curator has let the fairway grass grow into the bunkers.

Behind us are grapevines, bare after their harvest, in rich red soil, and surrounded by round low hills with nary a tree to blot their surface.

What trees there are partially mask a substantial stone farmhouse, for this is the start of  Victoria’s Western District, prized for its wool, dairy and wheat.

mt elephant

Mt Elephant, a 240m conical breached scoria cone, formed by a dormant volcano, near the town of Derrinallum in south-western Victoria. (Image: Don Fuchs)

And everything we see from here and beyond to the South Australia border – the hills, the lakes, the fields, the walls that fence them and often the paving on the roads that run along them – is down to volcanoes.

Many might be mere bumps on the horizon, but given the variety of the 400-plus volcanoes here, there are few other landscapes like it in the world. And it’s why British-born geologist Dr Julie Boyce came here to do her PhD in what she calls “the perfect natural laboratory”.

Volcanically, it’s very young, and so it’s called the Newer Volcanics Province (NVP). Julie is with us on the scoria-strewn hillside at Red Rock, 12km north of Colac, to explain how these volcanoes formed – and where the next ones might appear…

Read the rest of the feature, ‘Forged by Fire’, in the March-April edition of Australian Geographic (AG#137), on sale next week.