How Australia and India broke up—100 million years ago

Dr Joanne (Jo) Whittaker, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart

Dr Joanne (Jo) Whittaker likes to solve jigsaw puzzles. Now this marine geoscientist is tackling the biggest puzzle on the planet—the formation of continents.
WithSDP_0059 the help of Australia’s national marine research vessels, and now her L’Oréal Fellowship, Jo is reconstructing how the Indian, Australian and Antarctic tectonic plates separated over the past 200 million years, forming the Indian Ocean and the continents as we see them today. This information will help us model climate change better, find new gas resources, and understand the dynamics of the land in which we live.

The piece of this jigsaw she is now working on centres on two underwater plateaux, the Batavia and Gulden Draak Knolls, towering about 3000 metres above the Perth Abyssal Plain (PAP), which is around 1600 kilometres off the coast of Geraldton in Western Australia. In November 2011, Jo’s team mapped and sampled rocks from both knolls. Based on the evidence so far, Jo says, it looks like they split from the margins of the moving Indian Plate about 100 million years ago.
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