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Summer Science Exhibition 2010

Fast and furious: witnessing the birth of Africa's new ocean









The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Fault line - image courtesy of Julie Rowland, University of Auckland.

A team of scientists are finding out how oceans form by observing the creation of the newest ocean on Earth.

The surface of the Earth is constantly changing. Continents have collided and drifted apart, and new oceans have formed over millions of years to give the Earth its present-day appearance. And the Earth is still changing. In the remote Afar desert in northern Ethiopia, a 60-kilometre-long segment of plate boundary cracked open by as much as eight metres over 10 days in 2005.

“The geological activity in Afar, the hottest place on Earth, is allowing us to witness how our ocean basins started to form,” says Dr Tim Wright, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds.

Visitors will be able to see a 3D interactive guided tour of the Afar region, examining how the surface geology changes when the land splits apart. They will be able to compare freshly-erupted basalt and obsidian lavas with samples dredged up from the modern Mid-Atlantic Ridge. They will see scientists at work in this hostile land and test some of the equipment that they used there.

Exhibited by University of Leeds; University of Bristol; University of Oxford; University of Edinburgh; University of Cambridge; British Geological Survey; Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia.

See all exhibits from 2010

Fast and furious: witnessing the birth of Africa's new ocean The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK