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The University of Southampton

Marine geologists join Royal Navy's HMS Scott to investigate Indian Ocean earthquake

Published: 24 January 2005

Southampton Oceanography Centre marine geologists Drs Tim Henstock and Lisa McNeill are to help survey the earthquake rupture that set off the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The scientists join the Royal Navy ship HMS Scott (today Monday 24 January 2005) as she prepares to undertake a geological survey of the earthquake rupture zone in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Indonesia.

HMS Scott, a deep water hydrographic survey vessel will use swath bathymetry, a technique that produces high quality maps of the deep seafloor, to identify features that may be due to the recent earthquake or previous tectonic events. Tim and Lisa will be advising on the areas to be surveyed and the interpretation of the data.

Dr McNeill said: "This is the first major offshore earthquake since modern investigative techniques such as swath bathymetry have been available. It will provide the "base map" to further geological understanding of the region and will form the basis for planning possible future science missions. Not only is HMS Scott leading investigations in the area, this will be the first time scientists have ever surveyed the seafloor so soon after an underwater earthquake - before erosion and other processes have changed the geology of the seafloor."

Dr Henstock said: "We are pleased to be part of this major collaboration - the first time that HMS Scott has been made available for a civilian mission - and look forward to being able to make our contribution to the understanding of these catastrophic events."

The scientific survey, led by the Ministry of Defence, is a collaboration including the UK Hydrographic Office, the British Geological Survey and Southampton Oceanography Centre. The scientists expect to be on site to start the surveying work on Wednesday 26 January and to remain in the region for several weeks.

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Notes for editors

  1. Drs Henstock and McNeill are geophysicists each with over 10 years experience of research on active tectonic systems and subduction zones.
  2. Swath bathymetry uses sonar to give detailed 3D data of the morphology of the deep seafloor. Similar to mowing a lawn, the ship will travel up and down the survey area scanning a 6km wide swath of the seabed, in this case, up to 5000 metres below the surface.
  3. Southampton Oceanography Centre is a joint venture between the University of Southampton and the Natural Environment Research Council. It is one of the world's largest institutions devoted to research, teaching and technological developments in ocean and earth science. From 1 May 2005 the Centre will be known as the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.
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