Dr Simon Williams
University of Sydney
Transit voyage from Lautoka (Fiji) to Hobart to relocate the vessel in preparation for IN2016_E01. During the transit, a number of research and training projects will be undertaken, including seafloor mapping of the continental geology of eastern Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia.
A large gap in our knowledge of east Australian geology lies hidden beneath the seas off eastern Australia. Very little is known about the geological make-up of the submarine banks and ridges under the Tasman and Coral Seas. This voyage provided an opportunity to survey the Fairway Ridge and the ridge underlying 'Sandy Island', a phantom island that until recently was depicted, in error, as a feature in most digital global coastline maps.
Researchers will dredge 4-6 sites in the Fairway Ridge and Sandy Island areas and continuously collect bathymetric data. Floats equipped with CTD and bio-optical sensors will also be deployed to help create an overall map of the seafloor fabric and geological terranes that make up 'Zealandia', a submerged continental mass.
This voyage successfully recovered a suite of rocks (from ancient basement to recent sediments) which will fill a major gap in geological maps of the area used by industry and governmernt. It will also provide useful framework information for some of Australia’s largest frontier hydrocarbon basins. A new plate boundary was mapped in the ocean between New Caledonia and Fiji, and researchers recovered rocks from thousands of metres below sea level indicating land once exposed at the surface, an ancient river system and a string of submarine volcanoes.
The voyage also provided the opportunity to characterise bio-optical and biogeochemical properties of ocean waters east of Australia, and study marine microorganisms (phytoplankton, bacteria and archaea) forming the base of the food chain and impacting nutrient availability and local climate. Researchers were able to map the function of these microbes along the ship's transit path, from tropical to high-latitude temperate waters, giving us a greater understanding of how the environment shapes microbial function, and therefore how this might change in future oceans.
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