Contractors using echo-sounding technology to search for deep-sea oil found the lost world beneath the sediments and debris that accumulated in the 56 million years since the island sank northeast of the Orkney-Shetland islands.
Echo-sounding involves the release of highly pressurized air beneath the water to create sound waves. The sound waves pass through sediments on the floor of the ocean. When the sound waves bounce back, a microphone records them. The data is then used to create a three dimensional map of what lies beneath the ocean.
Nicky White of the University of Cambridge and his team used those maps to observe the sunken island. They could even see what used to be rivers and mountains. Their findings were recently published in Nature Geoscience.
The researchers also examined sediment samples from the sunken world and found traces of pollen and coal, suggesting land plants once resided there.
They speculate that the island may have even been part of a much larger landmass that once stretched from Scotland to Norway.
IMAGE 1: Orkney Islands, United Kingdom (Wikimedia Commons).
IMAGE 2: Shetland Islands from space (NASA).