Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Earth Moves

By Stephen Luntz

Prof Mike Sandiford is putting recent earthquakes, and human activities, into geological context.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Moe’s June earthquake shocked many Victorians, but Prof Mike Sandiford of the University of Melbourne’s School of Earth Sciences was relieved the event wasn’t larger.

“I grew up on the fault line,” Sandiford says. The Selwyn fault crosses the Mornington Peninsula from Cape Schanck to Dromana before running along the coastline to South Frankston, where it turns inland to the Dandenong Ranges. “We would hear earthquakes occasionally.”

The tremors inspired no desire to go into geology, but Sandiford says the fact he “walked 3 km through the bush to school each day” kept him interested in nature. “I was always on the water as a child, and my parents were agricultural scientists. I studied science at Melbourne University with no clear direction. I thought maybe biology, but I took a field trip to the McDonnell ranges and began to fall in love with trying to understand the history of where we live.”

For his PhD, also at Melbourne, Sandiford studied some of the oldest rocks on the planet – in Antarctica. “I was 100 km from base camp, which in turn was 300 km from Mawson. Most of the time I was with one other person, and a helicopter flew in to bring supplies and change who I was with. Occasionally it helped us move location. Mostly I was working on islands just off the coast, studying rocks that had been deep within the Earth – analogous to those in Tibet.”...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.