OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Sounds of the Antarctic: OPB Field Guide to Feature OSU Researchers

02/05/2008

NEWPORT, Ore. – A research team from Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science center, whose trips to Antarctica in 2005-06 resulted in new discoveries about the region’s seismic activity, will be featured on OPB’s Oregon Field Guide this Thursday, Feb. 7. The program airs at 8:30 p.m.

The researchers, led by OSU oceanographer Robert Dziak, used an array of sensitive hydrophones to listen for clues to the Southern Ocean’s unique seismology, ice field movements and biology.

The OSU team found that this remote region in the Bransfield Strait is much more seismically active than scientists previously thought and its ongoing earthquakes – in proximity to massive ice fields – create an unusual relationship that may not occur anywhere else on Earth.

“This is a small subduction zone that supposedly has ceased its tectonic activity, but we recorded an awful lot of earthquakes during the expedition,” Dziak said. “So it may not be ceased after all.”

The project was a component of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Explorer program. In December of 2005, the researchers deployed several hydrophones – built by OSU technicians at the Hatfield Marine Science Center – that were designed to withstand the frigid temperatures of Antarctic waters. Dziak and his colleagues returned to the region in December of 2006 to retrieve the data from the hydrophones, which had a year’s worth of recordings, and then redeploy them.

What they found in analyzing the data is a symphony of sounds revealing undersea earthquakes, the movement of massive icebergs, and the vocalizations of whales, penguins, elephant seals and other marine mammal species.

The researchers’ activities were documented by Bill Hanshumaker, an outreach specialist at the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, on a daily blog. He also interacted with K-12 classes as part of the NOAA-funded project. His reports are available online at: http://hmscblog.blogspot.com/