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French and Australian scientists hope that deep seismic profiling performed earlier this year in the southwest Pacific will improve understanding of the geological framework, crustal characteristics, and evolution of basins and ridges between the eastern Australian margin and the New Hebrides Trench system. The data already have indicated that the basements of several basins are thinned and oceanic, that the basements of several ridges are continental, and that, contrary to previous thinking, the Loyalty Basin was formed in late Cretaceous time.

Submerged continental fragments separated by deep ocean basins dominate the region in the west, and the Australian Plate is subducting beneath the New Hebrides Arc in the east. Subduction started in Late Miocene time [MacFarlane et al., 1988] at a rate of 12 cm/ year with a convergence direction of WSW-ENE [Dubois et al., 1977].