6 Nov 2014

Vanuatu 'much older' after recent discovery

9:41 am on 6 November 2014

The professor overseeing a recent groundbreaking discovery in Vanuatu says it could prove that the country is much older than current estimates show.

Mt Yasur, Vanuatu

Mt Yasur, Vanuatu Photo: Supplied

A student researcher from James Cook University found a fragment of volcanic rock from the 'geological basement' of Vanuatu that matches ancient material from Australia, suggesting Vanuatu formed part of the 'supercontinent' Gondwanaland.

The crystals were dated at up to three billion years old, and Dr Carl Spandler says until now the dominant theory is that Vanuatu was formed by volcanic activity - which would mean the country is only relatively young.

He says that theory is now in question.

"This piece that is now beneath Vanuatu probably wrested off from the eastern Australian margin probably over 100 million years ago. So this is long before there were any volcanoes in Vanuatu, such as you see today."

Dr Carl Spandler says he was scratching his head at the find, by honours student Janrich Buys, but rigorous checks confirmed the "amazing find".