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Deep-sea observatories to offer new view of seabed earthquakes

A mission to study New Zealand's largest fault by lowering two sub-seafloor observatories into the Hikurangi subduction zone is underway this week. This is the second of two related expeditions aboard the scientific drilling ship JOIDES Resolution, and is aimed at studying the Hikurangi subduction zone to find out more about New Zealand's largest earthquake and tsunami hazard. The Hikurangi subduction zone, off the east coast of the North Island, is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the Pacific tectonic plate dives beneath the Australian plate. Scientists believe the Hikurangi subduction zone is capable of generating earthquakes greater than magnitude 8. Subduction zone earthquakes can produce major tsunamis because there are large and rapid displacements of the seafloor during these quakes. The voyage's international science team will sample and analyze cores from below the seabed to understand the rock properties and conditions where these events occur.

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