GNS scientists search for earthquake sensors missing off east coast of North Island

If you happened to have stumbled across a strange, floating washing machine-sized contraption on a beach around the North Island this summer, then there are some anxious scientists who would like to speak to you.

Don't worry, you won't have any bizarre experiments conducted on you - the scientists are looking for some lost instruments which have disappeared off the seafloor.

The high-tech machines were placed on the seabed off the coast of Hawke's Bay in late 2018 to record earthquakes in the Hikurangi subduction zone, the country's largest and most active fault. 

But although most of them were recovered from the ocean last year, a number of them failed to respond to their release signal and remain missing, says Dr Laura Wallace of GNS Science.

The instruments, which belong to GNS Science and Columbia University in the United States, are about the size of a washing machine and are mounted on steel frames. They also have large yellow floats, meaning it's possible they may wash up by themselves somewhere along the North Island's east coast.

"The information recorded on the instruments is very valuable to us, and we would love to hear from anyone if they find one of these sensors washed up on the shore," says Dr Wallace.

 GNS scientists search for earthquake sensors missing off east coast of North Island
Photo credit: GNS Science

The data recorded by the sensors helps scientists learn more about earthquakes and slow-slip events in the Hikurangi subduction zone, says Dr Wallace.

By learning more about such things scientists hope to improve their ability to predict future earthquakes in New Zealand.  

Anyone who happens to find one of the instruments is asked to call GNS Science on 04 570-1444.