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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

5 March 2003

Scientists Discover Climate and Environmental Secrets from Ocean


Australian scientists on the AUSCAN scientific voyage across the Great Australian Bight have retrieved a core sample from the Murray Canyons that contains information on Australia's climate over the last 250,000 years.

"Taken aboard the French research vessel, Marion Dufrense, this finding has been described as the best sedimentary core sample retrieved in Australian waters because of the important information it provides about the climate," Minister for Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, said.

"It was taken as part of the joint Australian-French AUSCAN voyage, which is mapping the deep ocean floor and taking sediment core and biological samples from the west coast of Tasmania across to Fremantle. This includes the massive underwater Murray Canyons off the South Australian Coast.

"From the ship, scientists are drilling long cores into the sediment around the Murray Canyons system that has been deposited over the centuries by the Murray Darling river system.

"Early indications show the core is at a very high resolution and shows the highest rate of deposition of any core sample ever collected in Australian waters, meaning there is a large amount of sediment for every thousand years. This will enable researchers to piece together a great deal information about changes to the climate, oceanography and the geology of the area over the last quarter of a million years."

Australian National University geologist aboard the ship, Professor Patrick De Deckker, said the core results discovered on the voyage so far were very significant.

"This is a phenomenal result. We plan to divide the core into one centimetre slices, each representing 100 years of ocean history. This information will hopefully allow us to chart the history of the oceans and climate of this region every 100 years for the past 250,000 years. It will also help us predict and plan for future ocean events," Professor Deckker said.

Dr Kemp congratulated scientists on the AUSCAN voyage for retrieving highly valuable information on Australia's marine environment and climate.

The AUSCAN project is backed with $1 million from the Federal Government's National Oceans
Office as well as contributions from Geoscience Australia, the South Australian Research and Development Institute, and the Australian National University.

The AUSCAN voyage began in Hobart on February 18 and concludes in Fremantle on March 6. The AUSCAN website can be viewed at www.oceans.gov.au/auscan. The email address for questions is voyages@oceans.gov.au.

Media Contacts:
Catherine Job (Dr Kemp's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0439 438 500
Richard Wilson (National Oceans Office) 0419 699 682

Commonwealth of Australia