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Geoscience Australia awarded for bathymetric survey in MH370 search

By on 18 July, 2018

Geoscience Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Adam Lewis and GIS specialist, Megan McCabe, accepted the award in San Diego. Image courtesy of Geoscience Australia.

Australia’s public sector geoscience organisation has received Esri’s Special Achievement in GIS award for 2018, for scientific discoveries made while surveying the deep seafloor while searching for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

The search for the lost airliner necessitated collecting large volumes of data in a remote part of the Indian Ocean — over 710,000 square kilometres of shipboard bathymetry data and over 120,000 of side-scan sonar acquired by underwater vehicles.

The bathymetry data were used to create submarine topographic maps of the search area, which guided the towed and autonomous underwater vehicles collecting the sonar data in the second phase of the search, which were analysed with Esri GIS tools.

Geoscience Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Adam Lewis, proudly accepted the award in San Diego.

“The scope of the search was unprecedented, and produced the most detailed underwater map ever created; it showcases Geoscience Australia’s expertise, and will benefit science for decades to come,” he said.

“The findings will benefit global ocean exploration, the fishing industry, and government cooperation for future marine search and rescue.”

Dr. Stuart Minchin, Chief of Geoscience Australia’s Environmental Geoscience Division, said many discoveries were made during the search due to the vastly increased resolution of the new data, including new underwater volcanoes, mountains and trenches. Errors for recorded ocean depths were discovered and corrected, in some cases inaccurate by 2,000 metres.

“The data collected, and the insights gained from it, have been made available to anyone in the world in high-resolution, this is a world-first in government open data,” he said.

“The maps created by Geoscience Australia provide information about tides and sea floor depth, ocean temperatures and reveal sea floor terrain that has never been seen before.”

Geoscience Australia was selected from a pool of 100,000 organisations to receive the award.

The data has been made available in a range of formats and presentation forms catering to different audiences and users. A cinematic, simplified presenation via an interactive Esri Story Map, a more advanced visual interface at Geoscience Australia’s marine data discovery portal, and in raw and processed form (phase one and phase two) via the National Computational Infrastructure portal.

Before and after vision of data collected by Geoscience Australia during the MH370 search. Image courtesy of Geoscience Australia.

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