Petrophysicist joins ocean drilling research project investigating the origins of life

On 26 October 2015, the RSS James Cook (pictured) set sail from Southampton on route to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Dr Sally Morgan from the Department of Geology at Leicester, is a petrophysicist within the international team of scientists who are on-board the vessel. This offshore phase of the project will take six weeks and the destination of the ship is the Atlantis Massif, a subsea mountain 4,000m high found 750m to 1,750m below sea level. The RSS James Cook has arrived on site last week.

The offshore phase forms the first part of the exciting Expedition 357 project that, through the recovery and analysis of rocks at the seafloor and below, aims to improve our understanding of the microbial activity occurring around the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in extreme conditions. Such increased knowledge could aid prediction of where else beyond our Earth extra-terrestrial life could be supported

During the expedition, a series of sites across the Atlantis Massif region will be drilled to depths of 50-80m, with the aim of recovering continuous subsurface sediment core sequences. This expedition will be the first IODP expedition to utilise remotely operated seafloor drilling technologies (MARUM-MeBo80 and BGS Seafloor Rockdrill 2) which were tested during an earlier cruise this year.

The second phase of the project will commence in January 2016 at the IODP Bremen Core Repository (University of Bremen, Germany) where core recovered during the offshore phase is to be further analysed for its physical properties. IODP team members from the University and its partners, will be based in Bremen for this time and performing the analyses.

You can keep up-to-date with project developments through the expedition webpage and hear more about the expedition in an article by the BBC and also on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme (at 2hrs 7m).

The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) and its percusors (DSDP, ODP, IODP1) have made major contributions to advances in our knowledge of Earth history through drilling, sampling, logging and monitoring boreholes in the Earth’s oceans. The University of Leicester has been involved with this international collaborative program for more than 25 years. With our partners across Europe we provide operational, technical and scientific support to IODP’s Mission Specific Platform expeditions as part of the ECORD Science Operator (ESO).

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