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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

18 February 2003

Historic Voyage to Reveal Southern Ocean's Deep Secrets


New images of the immense underwater canyon system seaward of the Murray River mouth will be just one of the products of the federally funded historic research voyage that leaves Hobart tomorrow.

The $1 million AUSCAN voyage, funded by the Australian National Oceans Office and the French Polar Institute, with contributions from Geoscience Australia, the South Australian Research and Development Institute and the Australian National University, will produce spectacular images and valuable scientific information that will change the way Australians think about their island continent, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone said.

"Few Australians realise that the canyons out from the Murray River and the Coorong are deeper than the Grand Canyon, in water twice as deep as Mt Kosiuszko is high" said Dr Stone.

"Australian scientists will be joined by scientific partners from the French Polar Institute and French and German research institutions."

Using the latest sonar technology, known as "swath-mapping", the voyage will chart the seabed from off the west coast of Tasmania to Fremantle, taking in a large section of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone and across the Great Australian Bight.

"One of the most interesting and exciting geological features to be charted is the Murray Canyons, the ancient undersea delta of the Murray River. "

The AUSCAN cruise will produce exciting new 3-D footage of this unique geological terrain and will also aim to take samples of any fauna that inhabit the Murray canyons' depths, hoping to find new species.

"The information that will flow from the AUSCAN voyage will greatly improve Australians' understanding of the ocean and sea floor across the south of the continent.”

"It will also reinforce the importance of Australia's world-leading regional marine planning, the first result of which, the South-East Regional Marine Plan, will be launched by the National Oceans Office later this year.”

The cooperative AUSCAN expedition will take place on the French research vessel Marion Dufresne. The voyage is taking place exactly 200 years after the French explorer Nicholas Baudin charted the same waters.

The National Oceans Office will have a communications professional about the vessel and will produce a daily web diary that can be seen at www.oceans.gov.au. School students will also be able to find out more about the work of the voyage through an online question and answer session that can also be access through the website.

The National Oceans Office will provide regular media updates throughout the voyage which will leave Hobart on February 18 and concludes in Fremantle on March 5.

Further Information:
Anna Hughes (Dr Stone's Office) 0408 697 055
Dr Campbell Davies (Chief Scientist - National Oceans Office) 03 6221 5025
Nelli Noakes or Richard Wilson (Media - National Oceans Office) 03 6221 5000
Katrina Haig (Aboard the Marion Dufresne - satellite number available call 03 6221 5000 for details)
Samantha Lucia (Geoscience Australia) 02 6249 9438
Tim Winkler (Australian National University Media Office) 02 6125 5001

Commonwealth of Australia