Arctic Coring Expedition (ACEX) retrieves first Arctic core

08/25/04

IODP team succeeds in recovering sub-seafloor sample

NEAR NORTH POLE--The first 40 million years of Arctic climate history have been recovered from beneath the Arctic seafloor this week. After four days of working in hazardous conditions, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program's (IODP) Arctic Coring Expedition (ACEX) retrieved 272 meters of core. Extreme sea ice then forced the ship to abandon its position.

Coring of the Arctic's first scientific borehole--located roughly 145 miles (233 kilometres) from the North Pole--was interrupted when very thick, moving ice floes threatened the expedition's safety. Even one of the world's most powerful ice breakers, the Russian Sovetskiy Soyuz, employed to protect the coring ship from harsh Arctic elements, could not safeguard operations at the initial coring site.

As the expedition team searches for another favorable site from which to core, scientists on board the Vidar Viking have examined microfossils in the retrieved core. Initial analyses suggest that some of the material in the core's sediments could be 40 million years old--originating in the Middle Eocene period. The expedition's co-chief scientist, Professor Jan Backman of the University of Stockholm, exclaims, "This is very exciting. For the first time, we are beginning to get information about the history of ice in the central Arctic Ocean." He adds, "This core goes back to a time when there was no ice on the planet--it was too warm. It will tell us a great deal about the climate of the region. It will tell us when it changed from hot to cold, and hopefully, why." Prof. Backman explains that in prehistoric times, life in the Arctic Ocean was much different than today. In warmer conditions and free from ice, marine life thrived. The retrieved Arctic sediments will indicate the type and abundance of marine creatures that lived here back then. The cores were raised from sea depths of about 600 meters, coring depths formerly unmatched in Arctic waters.

The six-week Arctic Coring Expedition (ACEX) is an inaugural effort of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), a program of scientific discovery sponsored by 16 countries, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling. IODP expeditions explore Earth's history and structure by collecting and studying sediments and rocks beneath the sea floor, using technologically advanced ocean-drilling techniques. The program, overseen by Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International (IODP-MI) with offices in Sapporo, Japan, and Washington, DC, coordinates all program planning, administration, and educational outreach. IODP-MI seeks to maximize the program's scientific output, involve the broadest scientific population in its implementation, and stimulate community interest and involvement in all IODP discovery activities.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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