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Te Matakite – students see into the future of the Hikurangi Plate Boundary

3 years ago by Aliki Weststrate


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Te Hapara Primary School and Gisborne Boys’ High take out top honours in the recent Hikurangi Plate Boundary competitions run by GNS Science and East Coast LAB (Life at the Boundary).

Tairāwhiti secondary schools were asked to name the Deep Sea earthquake observatories that will be lowered 500m below the seafloor next year and remain there for up to a decade.

The winning name and video ‘Te Matakite’ came from Matthew Proffit, a Year 11 Geography student at Gisborne Boys’ High School.

GNS judge Dr Laura Wallace will be leading the team that will install these observatories from the JOIDES Resolution vessel. “Proffit’s entry, Te Matakite, means to see into the future, and it sums up our vision of the Hikurangi research perfectly. These two observatories will be our eyes deep under the ocean – they will measure and record how the Hikurangi subduction zone is behaving, so we can know more about how it might behave in the future”.

The name will be attached to the observatory before it is lowered into the sea in April 2018. The prize also means Proffit, the Y11 videographer, Travis Mitchell and their Geography teacher Nick Chapman, will travel to Christchurch to go on board the vessel and see the observatories first hand.

Teacher-in-charge of Geography/Social Studies at Gisborne Boys’ High, Nick Chapman says “The local context and his study of earthquakes and tsunamis this year really helped Proffit relate to the important purpose of these observatories. Winning this travel prize has topped off a great year for him as he was also awarded the top prize for Level 1 Geography at GBHS for 2017”.

Te Hapara Primary school, just down the road from Gisborne Boys’ High, also sent in winning entries to the Art under Pressure competition. Their cups were decorated by words and images about the Hikurangi subduction zone and its effects on the East Coast.

Scientists on board the JOIDES Resolution will be carefully lowering the cups to the seafloor when they drill narrow cores to study the fault. The deep-sea pressure will shrink the styrofoam uniformly. The scientists will then bring them back up and send them back to the students. They will serve as a memento of both the science and also the power of the sea for these Year 2 students.

The competition was organised by GNS Science and East Coast LAB (Life at the Boundary) to raise awareness of the Hikurangi plate boundary. This is a type of subduction zone where the Pacific plate ‘dives’ underneath the Australian Plate, and is our country’s most rapidly moving fault line.

The Hikurangi subduction zone can generate magnitude 8.0 (or larger) earthquakes that, in addition to widespread ground shaking, are also likely to produce tsunamis, coastal uplift and subsidence, landslides and liquefaction.