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Year-long seafloor scientific investigation off NZ coast to start next year

JOIDES resolution

Scientists from across the world will come to New Zealand in 2017 and 2018 to participate in a series of unprecedented investigations into the seafloor using a specially designed scientific drilling ship.

Confirmation of the five back-to-back research voyages in New Zealand waters, starting in August 2017, caps off years of planning and preparatory work by hundreds of scientists from many countries.

The projects will see the US-based scientific research ship JOIDES Resolution complete multiple drillholes beneath the ocean floor at four locations off the New Zealand coast, and one in the Ross Sea, to collect a range of information about how planet Earth works that can only be obtained by drilling into the seafloor. 

The ship is operated by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) which has 26 member countries, including New Zealand and all of our major trading partners.

Cumulatively the five projects represent a science investment of over $NZ80 million in terms of operating costs. For many of the scientists, participation in these expeditions will be the pinnacle of their careers.

The ship will spend about 12 months in New Zealand waters with each of the five legs lasting about two months.  It will make multiple port visits, each time spending millions of dollars on fuel and provisions.

Dr Neal Wai Poi, Acting Chief Executive of GNS Science, whose scientists are leading or co-leading  two of the expeditions, said all of the projects encompassed  themes of global significance and would lead to major advances in understanding for earth sciences.

It includes a project to test if slow deformation of a large seafloor landslide (about the size of Auckland), 30km off the Gisborne coast, is linked to the occurrence of gas hydrates by sampling the sub-seafloor layer along which the slide mass is moving (Led by The University of Auckland). This project will give us an improved assessment of earthquake and tsunami hazards and establishment a long-term  borehole observatory to monitor tectonic plate behaviour off the East Coast of the North Island.

New Zealand’s involvement in the International Ocean Discovery Programme comprises GNS Science, Victoria University of Wellington, NIWA, and Otago University, together with a number of Australian universities and government organisations.

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