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Joint Spanish-United States Cruise Investigates Tsunami and Earthquake Hazards in the Northeastern Caribbean

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map of the Caribbean showing the Puerto Rico Trench and the Muertos Trough.
Above: A recent Spanish-United States cruise investigated tsunami and earthquake hazards in the northeastern Caribbean. [larger version]

A survey to map tsunami and earthquake hazards in the northeastern Caribbean was carried out between March 28 and April 17, 2005, aboard the Spanish research vessel Hesperides and the Puerto Rican commercial tugboat Kruger B. The survey was conducted jointly by the University of Madrid, the Spanish Royal Naval Observatory, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Woods Hole Science Center, and the Puerto Rico Seismic Network (operated by the University of Puerto Rico). It included detailed sea-floor mapping of a 24,000-km2 area south and southwest of Puerto Rico known as the Muertos Trough, where the Caribbean plate is possibly being thrusted or subducted under Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The area has never been mapped before, and so the level of recent tectonic activity there is unknown.

The second part of the survey was centered in a section of the Puerto Rico Trench north of the Virgin Islands, previously mapped by the USGS (see "Mapping of the Puerto Rico Trench, the Deepest Part of the Atlantic, Is Nearing Completion," Sound Waves, October 2003). The purpose of this part of the survey was to understand the reason for the high level of earthquake activity in the area and its potential hazard to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Ten USGS ocean-bottom seismometers were deployed here to 6,000-m depth to record acoustic waves generated by the Hesperides. The seismometers will stay on the sea floor for a period of 7 months to record local seismicity. This deployment will also help calibrate the University of Puerto Rico Seismic Network to locate earthquakes in the Puerto Rico Trench. Seismic-reflection data, which provide vertical cross sections through the crust, were also collected and will augment ongoing USGS research in the area.

USGS-WHOI ocean-bottom seismometer The Spanish research vessel Hesperides approaching the harbor at Road Town, British Virgin Islands.
Above Left: USGS-WHOI ocean-bottom seismometer, one of 10 instruments deployed in the Puerto Rico Trench.

Above Right: The Spanish research vessel Hesperides approaching the harbor at Road Town, British Virgin Islands.

The third part of the survey included the deployment of land seismometers on the Dominican Republic, which recorded acoustic waves generated by the Hesperides south of the island. The survey included two stops, one in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and one in Roadtown, British Virgin Islands, where press conferences were held and school groups visited the ship. The USGS was represented by Uri ten Brink, Thomas O'Brien, and Edward Sweeney. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) technicians Vic Bender and Dave DuBois and University of Puerto Rico scientist Jay Pulliam (also affiliated with the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics) deployed the ocean-bottom seismometers.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Workshop Addresses Tsunami Hazard to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Other Caribbean Islands
June 2004
Mapping of the Puerto Rico Trench, the Deepest Part of the Atlantic, Is Nearing Completion
October 2003
Pioneer in Marine Geophysics Honored
Feb. / Mar. 2003
USGS, University of New Hampshire, and NOAA Cooperate in Exploring the Puerto Rico Trench
November 2002
OBS Recovery off Puerto Rico
July 2000
Puerto Rico OBS Study
June 2000

Related Web Sites
Caribbean Tsunami and Earthquake Hazard Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Seismic and Tsunami Hazard in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands - USGS Open File Report 99-353
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Woods Hole Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Woods Hole, MA

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in this issue: Research cover story:
USGS and AGI Receive Valuable Seismic Data from Chevron

Fieldwork Northeastern Caribbean Tsunami and Earthquake Hazards

Habitat Mapping to Assess Health of Apalachicola Bay Oyster Fishery

Submarine Ground-Water Discharge Along the Suwannee River Delta

Outreach USGS Scientist Featured on Television Series

Earth Day Celebration at Elementary School

Oyster-Reef Restoration

Department of Commerce Science and Technology Fellows Visit USGS

USGS and American Ground Water Trust Expand Teacher Institute Program

Youth Enrichment Service E-Team Visits USGS

Awards USGS Personnel in St. Petersburg, Florida, Win Awards

Staff & Center News Clean-Room Construction Begins at Woods Hole Science Center

USGS National Education Coordinator Visits St. Petersburg Office

Kurt Rosenberger Joins the Western Coastal and Marine Geology Team

Publications June Publications List

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