Andhra Pradesh

NIO finds a new canyon system close to Kovvada coast

S. Prasanna Kumar, Acting Director of CSIR-NIO, explaining the discovery of a new underwater canyon in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Kovvada, on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

Scientists of CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) in Visakhapatnam are an ecstatic lot. They have found three new canyons forming a major canyon system in the depths of Bay of Bengal close to Kovvada in Srikakulam district.

The finding has been evading them since the last 50 years, and for the first time they have clearly mapped the ocean floor between Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam by sending over 32 high density beams to the depths of the sea.

“Canyon systems are generally formed by flow of river water into the sea and they could be as old as the river system, which is close to 23 million years. But what makes our find interesting is that we could locate and clearly map a new system in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Visakhapatnam and after nearly five decades,” said the acting director of NIO S. Prasanna Kumar.

LaFond’s discoveries

The last canyon systems off the Visakhapatnam coast were discovered in 1963 by American geologist E.C. LaFond of U.S. Navy Electronics Laboratory, who was carrying out marine studies at Andhra University. The data was collected on board research ship Anton Bruun.

Prof. LaFond then discovered three canyon systems between Viskhapatnam and a few kilometres north of Bheenumipatnam and they were named as Andhra after Andhra University, Mahadevan after Prof. Mahadeven, who is considered to be the father of Geology in India, and Krishna after the then Vice-Chancellor of AU Prof. V.S. Krishna, said V.S.N. Murty, scientist in-charge of NIO-Visakhapatnam.

“Prof. LaFond had then stated that there were three other canyon systems, but we did not have any proof. But now we have discovered them and also, prominently mapped them with the help of state-of-the-art facilities on board RV Sindhu Sankalp research vessel,” said Chief Scientist, NIO-Mumbai, A.K. Chaubey.

Huge canyon

According to P.S. Rao, Chief Geologist on board RV Sindhu Sankalp, the new canyon system is very huge and probably formed by the river Kandivalasa. The depth of the canyon varies from about 90 metres from the starting point to about 2,500 metres at the deepest point, and it extends to about 50 to 70 km deep into the sea and the width varies from 50 metres to two km.

As per the findings, the depth is more than the Grand Canyon, which is about 1,857 metres, said Dr. Prsanna Kumar.

Great scope for study

According to him, most of the canyons in the ocean system across the world act as channels for depositing sediments in the shelf region. “The more the deposit, the more are the chances of finding hydro-carbons. But it is too early to say on this aspect, as we have just discovered the canyon and the shelf region is yet to be explored,” said Dr. Prasanna Kumar.

“But, the discovery of the canyon is not only a major breakthrough in underwater geological formations, but also gives us immense scope to study and explore new benthic ecosystem,” he said.

“The study of ecology and fauna and micro organisms will not only tell us about our past but also throw light on new science. The study of how organisms live and flourish at low oxygen level and high current system can lead us to understand human heart diseases better and help us develop new treatment system,” said Dr. Prasanna Kumar.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 11:18:35 PM |

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