Geoscience Australia has been selected from over 100,000 organisations world-wide to receive a global award for its ground-breaking work in mapping the world's deep-seabed in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
The Esri Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) Award, recognised Geoscience Australia’s innovative use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to advance mapping of the deep oceans.
The search for MH370 led to discoveries including underwater volcanoes, mountains and trenches, and improved the accuracy of ocean depths by up to 2,000m.
These insights are expected to support benefits to science, industry, and government cooperation for future marine search.
In San Diego to accept the award on behalf of Geoscience Australia, Chief Scientist Dr Adam Lewis said this team of experts used the world’s most advanced location-based analytics software – Esri GIS technology – to derive meaningful insights from the largest marine survey ever conducted.
“A key requirement from the outset of the search was to create a detailed and accurate picture of the ocean floor, so that we could begin to determine what may have happened to the debris.
“To do this, we used GIS technology to map and analyse an unprecedented volume of data, including over 278,000 square kilometres of shipboard bathymetry data, and another 432,000 square kilometres of data collected on the journey to and from the search zone.
“The visual language of maps is a very effective way to communicate, so we used dynamic real-time maps to share updates about the search and our findings with other government agencies in Australia, Malaysia and China; members of the public; and – most importantly – the families of those on board the flight.
“The search also demonstrated the great value of open data. Some of the key data and insights we generated in the search has been made available to anyone in the world in high-resolution format.
“This is a global first in government open data. While we captured the data as part of the search for flight MH370, it is through making the data open that the scientific, industry and other benefits come to pass”
Esri Australia and Esri South Asia Group Managing Director Brett Bundock said the implications of Geoscience Australia’s discoveries would enable more sustainable and efficient operations across many industries, from petroleum to telecommunications.
“The maps created by Geoscience Australia provide more precise insight into tides, seafloor depth, ocean temperatures and seabed terrain than has ever been available before,” said Mr Bundock.
“Using GIS technology to create an accurate and detailed picture of the seafloor is critical for understanding factors such as: environmental change; tsunami forecasting; mineral extraction; oil and gas exploration; infrastructure construction; and cable and pipeline routing – to name just a few areas.
“For example, petroleum companies can use the technology to more effectively plan and manage their ocean pipeline network, to ensure their real-time operations are optimised and the risk of oil spills is mitigated.
“Commercial fisheries can use these insights to pinpoint the locations of fish and dramatically decrease the time taken to catch their allowance – which in-turn generates cost-savings and environmental benefits from reducing fuel consumption and time spent on ocean.
“Telecommunications organisations, which are increasingly investing in submarine cables for inter-country connectivity, will have a clear picture of the most efficient and safe location for their seabed cable network.
“We congratulate Geoscience Australia for their meaningful achievements in this field which will make a significant difference not only to Australians, but to communities around the world.”
Beyond the SAG Award, Geoscience Australia was also recognised for establishing a new multi organisational cooperative group – AusSeabed – to coordinate seabed mapping activities in Australia.
This initiative will contribute to the international mapping objectives of the The Nippon Foundation- GEBCO’s Seabed2030 project. Launched at the United Nations (UN) Ocean Conference in 2017, this project looks to bring together scientific agencies from around the world to map the entire ocean floor in high resolution by 2030.
Satinder Bindra, Director of The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed2030 Project, said Geoscience Australia’s significant progress in seafloor mapping provided a strong foundation for producing a definitive map of the world ocean floor.
“The Seabed2030 project brings together scientific agencies from around the world to map the entirety of the world’s ocean floor in high resolution by 2030,” said Mr Bindra.
“Achieving this goal will rely on a multitude of organisations, in both the public and private sectors, coming together to donate bathymetric data for the cause of science.
“A large portion of the world’s ocean floor remains unmapped – and we congratulate Geoscience Australia for their contribution in helping us ‘map the gaps’ and for winning the prestigious Esri SAG Award.”