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‘Exciting’ quake data

New Zealand and US scientists have collected new data offshore that may give new insights into the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that rocked the East Cape earlier this month.

Scientists from GNS Science, Niwa and the University of Washington have been on board Niwa's research vessel Tangaroa, gathering data using a state-of-the-art underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) called ROPOS,

They are studying New Zealand's largest earthquake fault, the Hikurangi subduction zone, where the Pacific Plate subducts beneath the east coast of the North Island.

A team of eight engineers from the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility used ROPOS to download the latest data from the two undersea observatories monitoring earthquakes and slow slip earthquakes.

The two observatories were installed up to 400 metres beneath the seafloor by the research vessel JOIDES Resolution more than three years ago and have been actively recording changes in the Earth's crust due to earthquakes and slow slip earthquakes off the coast of Gisborne since then.

Voyage leader Dr Laura Wallace of GNS Science says the two observatories are operating well and have recorded some exciting data.

“They reveal very interesting changes during and after the sequence of earthquakes off East Cape and the Kermadecs a couple of weeks ago.

“We can also see smaller slow slip earthquakes (lasting days to weeks) in the data that are difficult to detect with the shore-based GeoNet network and large signals during a slow slip event offshore Gisborne in March and April 2019.

“These new results have allowed us to observe how slow slip earthquakes evolve offshore the east coast with much greater detail than any other types of data that we have had before.”

■ The Earthquake Commission (EQC) has received 393 insurance claims from the March 5 earthquake.

An EQC spokesman said 45 claims had been closed, with five of these resulting in customers receiving a payment.

“Payments to date total $17,232 and these were for claims in Napier (2), Hastings (2) and Tauranga (1).”

STATE OF THE ART: The underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle, ROPOS heading off for a dive. Picture by Dr Jess Hillman
ROBOT HELP: ROPOS downloading data from Te Matakite, one of the earthquake observatories installed beneath the seafloor off the East Coast more than three years ago. Picture by ROPOS