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Media Release
Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Dr David Kemp

26 February 2003

Website Reveals Australia's Underwater Canyon - Larger than the Grand Canyon


A website featuring new images and information about Australia's virtually unknown geological treasure - a massive underwater canyon system that is greater than America's Grand Canyon and more than twice the height of Australia's highest mountain, Mt Kosciusko - was launched today by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp.

“The website is part of a joint Australian-French AUSCAN voyage - an important research project taking place aboard the French scientific research ship, Marion Dufresne, to explore the massive underwater Murray Canyons off the South Australian coast,” Dr Kemp said.

“These fascinating canyons stretch over more than 150 kilometres to the south of Kangaroo Island and are virtually an unknown Australian geological treasure.

“The website features a short 3-dimensional computer-generated film of the Murray Canyons plus a daily diary written throughout the voyage which details life aboard a research vessel. There is also a map showing the ship’s location each day and people are invited to email questions to be answered by the scientists onboard.

"The beauty of the AUSCAN website is that it provides instant access to important and intriguing science for the public, not just the scientists, and provides them with a fascinating insight and understanding of the ocean and seafloor around our island continent.''

The AUSCAN voyage is backed with $1 million from the Federal Government through the National Oceans Office and contributions from Geoscience Australia, the South Australian Research and Development Institute, and the Australian National University.

Dr Kemp said the website was an important adjunct to the voyage in providing information for Australia's regional marine planning process led by the National Oceans Office and involves extensive consultation with stakeholders and members of the public. The information will also be used by other research partners.

“Regional marine planning is designed to reduce future conflicts between users of the ocean and its resources, protecting ecosystems as well as providing certainty for our marine industries,” Dr Kemp said.

"Future regional marine planning across the Great Australian Bight requires information on biodiversity and detailed mapping of the sea floor which will be gathered by scientists on the AUSCAN voyage.

“Under Australia’s Oceans Policy, regional marine plans will be established for all oceans waters within our Exclusive Economic Zone out to the 200 nautical mile limit. The AUSCAN voyage will help further our understanding of this ocean territory, all of which will be the subject of regional marine plans.

“Part of the voyage will also take place in the South-East Regional Marine Plan area. This is Australia’s first regional marine plan and takes in the ocean waters off Victoria, Tasmania, southern NSW and eastern SA. It will be released publicly through the National Oceans Office later this year.”

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 Contact:
Catherine Job (Dr Kemp's office) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400
Richard Wilson (National Oceans Office) 0419 699 682

Commonwealth of Australia