Investigating Earth's History: An Oceanographic Expedition in New Zealand

Final Goodbye posted by Ben on 16 Feb 2005

In a few hours, we will meet our port escort outside of the Wellington Harbour and he will navigate the ship in to Queens Wharf. Even though the weather is still beautiful, the seas are about as rough as they have been the whole trip with 3m ground swells growing larger as we make the turn around to the infamous Cooks Strait.
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Return to Civilization posted by Denise on 15 Feb 2005

We’ve just arrived back in Wellington. We experienced rough seas this morning and as a result, had to remain inside packing equipment until we arrived at the mouth of the harbor. It felt like a rollercoaster this morning as the ship rolled on the large swells. It was sort of fun to experience the weather, knowing that we would be in port soon. During our efforts to prepare for departure, we stumbled around our rooms and through the halls.
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View from space of ocean floor around New Zealand.
The turquoise area is a narrow strip of shallow (<2000 m) ocean also known as the continental margin.
Although viewed by most as remote, removed, and perilous, the oceans are home to a world of deep beauty and are a great source of food and other natural resources (e.g., oil). In addition, they are a fascinating place to recreate and explore. Exploration and examination of the oceans is critical to finding new resources and learning about Earth history (and possibly the future). Furthermore, the oceans, which cover over two-thirds of the planet’s surface, are a processing factory for materials draining from land.
Ocean study is needed to understand how activities and events on land are processed and recorded in the sea, and this is the primary focus of our research in New Zealand. This research is funded by the Source to Sink - MARGINS program of the National Science Foundation.

Why the Waipaoa River in New Zealand?
Unlike the eastern coast of the United States (e.g., North Carolina) which has a broad coastal plain, many coastlines around the world have rugged mountains immediately next to the sea and lack bodies of water (e.g. Pamlico Sound) between rivers and the ocean. The northeast coast of New Zealand, where the Waipaoa River enters the sea, is one example. In these settings, materials from land can be rapidly transported to the ocean, and as a result sediments and dissolved material may quickly accumulate on the ocean floor and affect ocean ecosystems after river flooding. Also, the Waipaoa River discharges an incredible amount of sediment for a river its size. This is because of high rainfall in the area and its easily eroded landscape, which is made of sedimentary rocks. In fact, the Waipaoa River is more than 10 times smaller than the Potomac River but discharges 100 times more sediment!


Coordinating Institutions
ECU GSC Nicholas School National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Skidaway Institute of Oceanography Virginia Institute of Marine Science