"We saw vapor being emitted from the top of the volcano and we saw lava flows coming down the flank of Big Ben," Professor Mike Coffin of the University of Tasmania's Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, the voyage's chief scientist, said. "This was a very exciting observation. There are very few ships that come to this part of the world and in fact the last geological expedition that landed on Heard Island was in 1987."
Hidden Volcanoes Melt Antarctic Glaciers From Below
Although remote, Big Ben is not the most southerly active volcano in the world. That honor goes to Mt. Erebus, on Antarctica's Ross Island, which was discovered on January 28 1841, by an expedition led by Sir James Clark Ross.
The volcano was erupting as the expedition's ships approached, and the juxtaposition of fire and ice moved the ship's surgeon, Joseph Hooker, to observe that, "this was a sight so surpassing everything that can be imagined ... that it really caused a feeling of awe to steal over us, at the consideration of our comparative insignificance and helplessness."