Secrets of Darwin harbour revealed in survey

By on 15 December, 2015

darwin harbour survey

Geoscience Australia and the Northern Territory government has released this never before seen imagery of Darwin’s underwater landscape following results of a seabed mapping exercise conducted earlier this year.

Darwin Harbour’s underwater landscape can be experienced through this flythrough video showing canyons, sand dunes and underwater cliffs.

By mapping the seabed and collecting samples, the research team found relics of Australia’s ancient geography from more than 20,000 years ago in the last ice age, in a time when northern Australia was connected to New Guinea by land.

The collaborative four-year project brings together over 50 years of experience in sea floor mapping and has enhanced efforts for better estuary and coastal management in the area.

The marine survey involved collecting high resolution bathymetric data as well as geochemical and physical samples, uncovering ancient sub-marine sand dunes, ripples and sand waves. These features tell a story from the last ice age some 20,000 years ago when global sea levels were much lower and Darwin Harbour did not exist as we know it today.

During this time a land-bridge existed between northern Australian and New Guinea, and Darwin was potentially only a river valley until an estuary developed when rising seas drowned the area around 7000-8000 years ago.

“This crucial research significantly enhances our efforts for better estuary and coastal management of this area, while creating the best mapped tropical macro-tidal system in the world. It’s also an exciting test case for scientists who hope to better understand complex environmental systems like Darwin Harbour”, said Neil Smit, a scientist from the Northern Territory Government.

Geoscience Australia was asked to partner the Northern Territory Government in this research bringing over 50 years’ experience in sea floor mapping which has underpinned exponential growth in building Australia’s understanding of the marine environment. They will continue to collaborate on this research for the duration of the four-year program.

The survey has also provided a new generation of accurate and detailed imagery of historic ship wrecks in Darwin Harbour. These include the USAT Meigs (sunk during the bombing of Darwin in 1942)

In addition to its scientific value, this work also tells the story of some of Darwin’s most well-known historic events capturing highly advanced imagery of shipwrecks sunk during Cyclone Tracy and the 1942 bombing of Darwin.

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