27 November 2017 - 04 January 2018
Fremantle, Australia to Lyttelton, New Zealand
Ingo Pecher and Philip Barnes
Leah LeVay
Stephanie Sharuga and Erin Todd
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Creeping Gas Hydrate Slides and Hikurangi LWD

New Zealand sits atop a complex boundary between two tectonic plates in the southwestern Pacific Ocean where one tectonic plate pushes beneath the North Island through a process called subduction. This subduction zone sits off the east coast and is the source of numerous geohazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis like those that have occurred elsewhere in the world over the last 10-15 years.

Tsunamis are waves caused by sudden movements of the ocean by an earthquake, landslide, volcanic eruption, or a meteorite impact. Subduction zones like the one in New Zealand experience both earthquakes and underwater landslides that can potentially generate damaging tsunamis. Scientists aboard this expedition hope to learn about the causes and behaviour of underwater landslides along New Zealand’s east coast to better understand how, where, and when they occurred in the past as well as how and where they are likely to occur in the future.

On Expedition 372, scientists from all over the world will come together to learn about the relationship between a special substance called gas hydrate and underwater landslides. Gas hydrate is an ice-like substance that forms in deep-ocean sediments where gases like methane get trapped in water and form a solid. Just like glaciers flow on land and carve valleys, these ice-like gas hydrates can creep and deform the seafloor, potentially leading to tsunami-generating underwater landslides.

Author:
Stephanie Sharuga
About:
Stephanie Sharuga has a Ph.D. in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences from Louisiana State University in the United States of America, where she studied and developed approaches for using submersibles for evaluating deep-sea benthic megafaunal communities in the northern Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Stephanie also holds a M.S. in Environmental Management and Sustainability from Illinois Institute of Technology, and B.Sc. in Biology and Earth & Ocean Sciences from the University of Victoria in Canada. Over the years, she has been involved in a variety of research, volunteer, and consulting projects, including with organizations such as the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Field Museum, and the International Ocean Discovery Program. Her past research has included projects that combine the studies of marine communities and seafloor geology, along with work in marine policy and environmental management. She has also been actively involved as both a ship and shore-based scientist for multiple oceanographic cruises over the years. Stephanie shares her lifelong passion for the ocean, environment, and science through a diverse variety of science education, outreach, and STEM mentoring activities.
More articles by: Stephanie Sharuga