Encore Geologists on scientific drilling odyssey

For the third time in two years, Leicester geologists from the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment will participate in an offshore scientific drilling expedition.

After the Atlantis Massif and the Chicxulub Impact Crater expeditions, the next two-month long expedition will take our geologists to Greece.

In October Erwan Le Ber and Laurence Phillpot will join the ship Fugro Synergy in Corinth, Greece, to collect data (physical properties and in situ measurements) as part of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). Expedition 381 Corinth Active Rift Development will recover cores in water depths reaching up to 860m, and penetrating the geological formations up to 750 meters below the sea floor.

Erwan and Laurence will work with a team of international researchers, operators and drillers to better understand the timing and activity of young continental rifts.

In Geology, rifting occurs in response to continental extension and can lead to the formation of basins. If rifting continues over millions of years, it leads to the formation of seas or oceans. The Gulf of Corinth results from a recent rifting, initiated ~5 million years ago (which is young on a geological time scale, our ancestors were starting to consider bipedalism back then), and is still active today. The 30-40 km wide rift is extending at rates estimated at 10-16 mm/year… which is ~10 times slower than the growth rate of human hair, yet the Gulf of Corinth is one of the most seismically energic areas in Europe.

When a basin forms, it is filled with sediments (sand, silt, clay etc.) eroded and transported from higher altitudes. Recovering continuous core sections from these sediments preserved in the Gulf of Corinth will allow the researchers to better understand the sedimentary and structural processes that occur in young rift settings to a high degree of precision. Erwan and Laurence will be responsible for the collection of physical properties data from the cores and from the boreholes from which they came.

After this offshore phase of the expedition, cores will be sent to the IODP Bremen Core Repository in Germany for further analyses in January and February 2018. Leicester scientists will again be actively involved, indeed Erwan Le Ber, Jenny Inwood and Laurence Phillpot will be collecting further physical properties data from the recovered cores along with a group of ~30 international researchers.