Somewhere in the middle of the deepest ocean on Earth, between Australia and New Zealand, is a jaw-dropping structure leaping out of the sea and it’s probably one of the coolest geological wonders you’ll hear about. Rising a staggering 572 metres or over 1800 feet out of the Pacific Ocean is Ball’s Pyramid — the tallest and largest sea stack known to man and it’s truly a sight to behold. It’s also part of the lost continent of Zealandia which split from Australia around 60-85 million years ago and is mostly submerged in the Pacific Ocean. The mysterious Zealandia, also known as Te Riu-a-Maui, is often regarded as the Earth’s “8th continent” and the dramatic spire that is Ball’s Pyramid is one of the surviving fragments of the once-lost continent. One look at it and you’d believe there’s a secret lair in there somewhere.
Located around 20 kilometres southeast of Lord Howe Island, Ball’s Pyramid is an erosional remnant of a shield volcano and is said to be about 7 million years old. It can be found in the Tasman Sea in the southwest Pacific Ocean approximately 700 km northeast of Sydney and forms part of the Lord Howe Island Marine Park. Here’s everything you need to know about the remarkable monolithic natural structure.
The first recorded sighting of the sea stack took place in 1788 by Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball who it is also named after. Lord Howe Island was also discovered on the same journey by Ball. Today it is the site of some of Australia’s most marvellous diving bringing divers up close to sea creatures such as dolphins, turtles and wahoos and rare species like the vibrant Spanish dancers and Galapagos whalers.
As if the pyramid itself wasn’t fascinating enough, here’s a fun fact that makes it even cooler. It was found to be the only natural habitat of a massive prehistoric-looking insect which was considered the rarest insect on the planet and previously believed to be extinct for over a century. These giant stick insects or tree lobsters were discovered on Ball’s Pyramid in 2001 and are endemic to Australia’s Lord Howe group of islands. Dryococelus australis, commonly known as the Lord Howe Island stick is currently undergoing a breeding program to secure the survival of the species. Read more about the discovery and program here.
Wondering if this giant volcano shard has ever been climbed? Bryden Allen, John Davis, Jack Pettigrew and David Witham of the Sydney Rock Climbing Club were the first people to climb it in 1965 to the very top. In 1979, Smith returned with climbers John Worrall and Hugh Ward to declare it Australian territory by unfurling a flag of New South Wales on the pyramid. You can read the experiences of another climber, Keith Bell, on the Australian Museum website.
Can you climb Ball’s Pyramid today?
Climbing was banned in 1982 and all access to the island was removed in 1986. Gradually the rules were relaxed but only to a degree. Today, eager climbers can apply for a permit if they wish to climb Ball’s Pyramid with a handful of people gaining access every year.
How can you reach it?
You need a boat to reach Balls Pyramid and there are a number of charter companies that run trips to the structure. Needless to say, it’s an incredible experience to see it up close. It is also a popular spot for diving and snorkelling. While you can visit the giant structure and get some out-of-the-world shots of the monolith, keep in mind that climbing the rock remains strictly forbidden to preserve the fragile ecosystem.
Get more information about Ball’s Pyramid on the Lord Howe Island website.