Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Corinth Active Rift Development: a view from the ship

IODP Expedition 381
View 2: first petrophysics blog from the ship

IODP Expedition 381, the latest Mission-Specific Platform proposal to be initialised, represents the next location on ECORDs sea-bed exploration map. Located in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece, it is the site of at least three carefully placed boreholes designed to resolve some of the biggest questions science currently has about newly forming continental rifts. Continental rifts, the most famous of which in the geological world is probably the East African Rift, are one result when continental plates decide to split and diverge from one another. Unlike the East African Rift, the one here in Corinth is only ~5 million years old (a geological baby), but it is already deep enough to be filling with water.
So what are the questions Expedition 381 is looking to answer? Well firstly, how do syn-rift faults evolve? How is strain (re-)distributed in the crust throughout this process, and how does the landscape surrounding the rift respond in the first couple of million years? The Corinth rift is the perfect place to study these questions since, as previously mentioned, its only 5 million years young. Furthermore it is the fastest opening rift globally at its fastest point at 15 mm/yr and averaging at 11 mm/yr across its length. In addition it is a region of intense seismicity, with a dense seismic database to inform drilling and fault placement. And that, in a nutshell, is the premise of IODP Expedition 381: Corinth Active Rift development. I’m not going to go into it any further, but if you’re of a scientific mind and you wish to look further into the expedition’s specific scientific aims or get some detail on the expected recovery then you can read the project proposal and its associated addendum. Or if you would prefer an easier read with all the same information you can follow the Expedition 381 blog updated regularly by the scientists on the ship.

Actually I should mention as an aside at this point, there are all sorts of IODP expeditions planned for the future in just about every sub-theme of marine and seafloor research you can imagine and all IODP proposals are available to explore. Or if you would like you can submit your own. Just an idea.
So to the matter at hand, what view do I get in the morning? I get this:
Photo: first view of the morning on the night shift (credit L Phillpot)

I am on the night shift for this expedition, working from midnight through to midday to keep the Multi-Sensor Core Logger running in 24 hour operation. I know this morning view is not the most inspiring but if I wait just a few hours for the sun to poke its head over the horizon then I am often greeted with something much more spectacular.

Photo: sunrise on first morning at sea on transit from Malta to Corinth (credit L Phillpot)

This view was not a bad introduction to the Mediterranean in fall. However, for those of you with keen eyes, a plastic bottle can be seen in the bottom left bobbing past us as we travel through the middle of the Mediterranean. A sad reminder of the impacts of plastic waste and disposal throughout the world’s oceans.

As for other sights, I get some cracking views of the Fugro Synergy with its derrick all lit-up at night, and probably the calmest views of “Main Street” that I will get for the next 2 months. “Main Street” is the name that we give to the walkway between the entrances of the ECORD containerised labs and offices. All the offshore science happens on “Main Street” from sampling and curation to geochemistry, petrophysics, microscopy and initial analysis. When we are in full swing and the core recovery rate is high, it will be a bustling hive of activity.

Photo: view of "Main Street" (credit L Phillpot)

At the time of writing the vessel is now in Greek waters and about to make its port-call in Corinth to collect all those scientists who will be sailing with us for the next two months as we explore early continental rift processes in ways that they have never been explored before.


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