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The University of Southampton

First earthquake seafloor images back from SOC marine geologists in the Indian Ocean

Published: 9 February 2005

Southampton Oceanography Centre marine geologists on board HMS Scott in the Indian Ocean earthquake zone have been sending back the first results of their seafloor survey.

Dr Tim Henstock and Dr Lisa McNeill were invited by the Royal Navy to join the survey ship HMS Scott during the offshore investigation of the earthquake zone. It is the first time that the seafloor has been observed so soon after an earthquake of this magnitude, which measured 9.0 on the Richter scale.

The earthquake occurred on Boxing Day 2004 some 40 kilometres below the seafloor where the Indian Plate is colliding with the Burman Plate. This collision has resulted in the Indian Plate being subducted (pushed underneath) the Burman Plate, and it was a sudden movement of these two plates that led to the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The first results have yielded far more than the scientists had hoped for. Coloured contour maps of the seabed clearly show the boundary between the deep, flat Indian Plate, and the heavily deformed edge of the Burman Plate (boundary marked on images with a white dashed line).

These initial results will form the basis for further study in the area, as part of an international research effort. Dr Lisa McNeill said: "As a geologist I am really grateful for this opportunity to collect data across the earthquake zone. From this we hope to understand better the geological processes which produced the earthquake and ultimately help to determine future earthquake and tsunami hazards so that everyone can be aware and prepared."

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Notes for editors

  1. The scientific survey, led by the MoD, is a collaboration involving the UK Hydrographic Office, the British Geological Survey and Southampton Oceanography Centre. The scientists started the survey work on 26 January.
  2. Image usage must be requested from MoD press office.
  3. Southampton Oceanography Centre is a joint venture between the University of Southampton and the Natural Environment Research Council. From 1May 2005 the centre will be known as the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.
  4. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University has around 20,000 students and nearly 5000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £270 million.
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