[ASC-media] Surfing in Alice Springs (before NT and SA collided two billion years ago)

Sarah Brooker sarah.brooker at gmail.com
Tue Aug 15 13:31:34 CEST 2006


Embargo 10am Wednesday 16 August 
(Images of the work are available upon request)

TWO BILLION years ago, the Australia we know today existed only in pieces.
Northern, western and central Australia all belonged to different
continents. 
New research in Adelaide is showing how these bits may have come together.
And the information could be significant to the discovery of new mineral
deposits.

Kate Selway, a PhD student in the University of Adelaide's School of Earth
and Environmental Sciences, has found evidence for a collision between
northern and central Australia which happened 1.64 billion years ago. 

"If you looked south from Alice Springs before that time, you would have
seen an ocean," Selway says. "The huge forces involved in this collision
produced mountain ranges and actually helped create the crust of central
Australia."

Using a geophysical technique called magnetotellurics, which measures the
electrical conductivity of the Earth to depths of hundreds of kilometres,
Selway has been probing the Earth beneath central Australia. She found that
northern Australia is more conductive than central Australia, and that the
boundary between them extends to at least 150 km depth.

Many ancient structures in Australia, such as this collision zone, are
hidden to traditional geological probes by thick layers of younger sediment.
But, says Kate, finding these structures by using methods which can
penetrate the sediment is vital.

"Not only does this kind of information help us to understand how our
continent formed, it can also be fundamental in finding the next big mineral
deposit. Such structures play an important role in determining how fluids
move under the surface-and it is these fluids that can often carry the
metals which concentrate into valuable mineral deposits."

The work was undertaken as a collaboration between the University of
Adelaide and the Northern Territory Geological Survey.

Kate Selway is one of 16 young scientists presenting their research to the
public for the first time thanks to Fresh Science, a national program
sponsored by the Federal and Victorian Governments. One of the Fresh
Scientists will win a trip to the UK courtesy of British Council Australia
to present his or her work to the Royal Institution.

For further information or to interview contact: Kate Selway on (08) 8303
4971 or 0448 867 889 or at katherine.selway at adelaide.edu.au 

University of Adelaide Media Office: Candace Gibson on (08) 8303 3173

Media contact for Fresh Science: Joanna Gajewski on 0429 388 822 or
jo at freshscience.org 

Images of the work are available upon request



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