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Art Under Pressure

An example of original Styrofoam cup art and shrunk Styrofoam art

The R/V JOIDES Resolution will be sending instruments down to the depths of the sea to learn more about the Hikurangi subduction zone.

The Earth's atmosphere has weight—or force—which presses down on everything on the surface. If you are at sea level, you have one atmosphere's worth of pressure pushing down on you.

In the ocean, pressure works the same way, but instead of just having a column of air over you, you also have the weight of all the water above you, pressing down on you and water is much heavier than air.

If you were 100m down at the bottom of the sea, the pressure of the water above is equivalent to 103kg, that’s like Richie McCaw jumping on you!

Your mission is to create a piece of art on a Styrofoam cup or Styrofoam plate relating to one or more of the following: the Hikurangi plate boundary, earthquakes, tsunamis and/or emergency preparedness. 

The best entries will be taken on board the science research boat JOIDES Resolution this year and sent down 1000m to the seafloor.

The pressure of the sea above will shrink your piece of art uniformly (see images) rather than squishing it. Your art will then be sent back to your school after the voyage. 

Styrofoam cup & plate art entries will be judged on:

  1. Interpretation and clarity of the theme to the viewer
  2. Quality of the artistic composition and overall design based on the theme
  3. Overall impression of the art

Note for teachers: This competition fits into the Arts/ Visual Arts Curriculum Learn Area Developing Ideas (DI) strand: Develop Visual ideas based on the theme of why we use scientific drilling to study earthquakes.

These are some useful resources for your students: 

  • Watch this great short video by Dr. Laura Wallace explaining the deep sea observatory instruments
  • Read this basic instrument fact sheet  and use it as a handout in class
  • Book your class in for an interactive virtual tour of the ship run by an on board educator out at sea