Manchester and Sudanese scientists collaborate on SALTAX expedition

The University of Manchester has contributed to the successes of the SALTAX expedition; a marine expedition to the deep waters of the Red Sea off Sudan.

Dr Neil Mitchell, a Reader in Marine Geophysics in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, joined Nico Augustin and Froukje van der Zwan of Germany's GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel for the cruise, with seismic data acquisition led by Jonas Preine of Hamburg University. They accompanied four young Sudanese scientists and a security expert from the Red Sea University and Sudan's Ministry of Minerals aboard the Dutch research vessel Pelagia. Senior Sudanese scientist Dr Izzeldin - who has written two important research articles on the structure of the crust in the central Red Sea and of the evaporites overlying it - was also present.

The expedition ran across August and September and was funded by GEOMAR and the German Research Foundation (DFG). The expertise of the young Sudanese on board ranged from geotechnical engineering and sedimentology to land geophysics. Sudan does not possess a deepwater research vessel; the international expedition in Sudanese waters is therefore helping to build capacity in this area.

The aim was to study giant flows of evaporites ('salt glaciers') entering the central rift and explosion craters formed by the volcanic eruption under the evaporites.
Dr Neil Mitchell, Reader in Marine Geophysics

After sailing from Limassol in Cyprus and passing through the Suez Canal, the team collected multibeam sonar, EK500 sonar, seismic reflection with a sparker source and magnetics (gradiometer) data, as well as 20m of sediment cores and a set of water samples. The experience of splitting and documenting cores, geophysical data collection and first interpretations was shared with the Sudanese scientists. After the cruise the team was invited to the Red Sea University, where Nico Augustin gave a talk and plaques were presented to establish the new collaborations.

The expedition is a great example of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences partnering with researchers in a developing country, and highlights the work of the School towards social responsibility.

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