We have known about a massive fault line on Earth for years now, but for the first time, it has been officially confirmed by the geologists at Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra and Royal Holloway University of London.
The concept of the Weber Deep has been confirmed to be the largest exposed fault on Earth, and the concept now gives an understanding of how a 7.2-km-deep (4.5-mile) cleavage was created in the Pacific Ocean, near the Maluku Islands of Indonesia.
The chasm lies beneath the Banda Sea in eastern Indonesia and runs through the notorious Ring of Fire, which is an imaginary ring where almost 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur while 75 percent of all active volcanoes are also present.
Using the maps of the sea floor from the Banda Sea region, the geologists found the rocks which were sitting at the bottom of the sea and noticed that hundreds of straight parallel scars on them. When the sea floor was simulated, a massive piece of crust which was larger than Belgium was found to be ripped apart by a crack in the oceanic plates, leading to the formation of the deep depression in the ocean floor.
The resultant “Banda Detachment” is the largest exposed fault plane to be detected on Earth, which reveals over 60,000 square kilometres (23,166 square miles).
One of the researchers, Gordon Lister from ANU talked about this discovery,
“We had made a good argument for the existence of this fault we named the Banda Detachment, based on the bathymetry [underwater topography] data and on knowledge of the regional geology.”
The researchers identified prominent landforms in the water during their sailing routine in the Pacific Ocean in eastern Indonesia, which was part of the Banda Detachment fault plane.
Jonathan Pownall from ANU said,
“I was stunned to see the hypothesised fault plane, this time not on a computer screen, but poking above the waves. The discovery will help explain how one of Earth’s deepest sea areas became so deep. Our research found that a 7 km-deep abyss beneath the Banda Sea off eastern Indonesia was formed by extension along what might be Earth’s largest-identified exposed fault plane.”
Along with its origin, the discovery could also help in predicting the movements of the tectonically hyperactive region in the world, known as the Ring of Fire.
“In a region of extreme tsunami risk, knowledge of major faults such as the Banda Detachment, which could make big earthquakes when they slip, is fundamental to being able to properly assess tectonic hazards,” says Pownall.