A major lava tube system from Undara Volcano, North Queensland

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Bulletin Volcanologique


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The Undara Volcano erupted 0.19 m.y. ago and formed lava fields covering 1,500 km2 with a volume of approximately 23 km3. One of the flows extended 160 km on a gradient that averaged only 0.3°. This great length was a result of very high effusion rates, favourable topography and lava tube efficiency. The Undara lavas are rather uniform hawaiites. Lava temperatures are estimated to have been somewhat less than 1175–1220°C and viscosities greater than 10 to 30 Pa s. Long, apparently single lava tubes are well preserved in many places. They are marked by depressions, caves and long level ridges. A system of lava tubes extends for perhaps more than 100 km. The features of the lava tubes are comparable with those described elsewhere. Aligned depressions associated with caves appear to have formed contemporaneously. Most are much wider than the caves and probably represent collapsed lava ponds. The lava tubes appear to have formed by roofing over of lava channels. Close to lava tubes, the rocks developed strongly oxidised characteristics, such as oxidised olivine phenocrysts, ferric clinopyroxene and extensively developed hematite. Differentiated lava forms drips in some caves and is also oxidised.


Lava Tube, Cave Entrance, Host Lava, Narrow Ridge, East Branch

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