Europe, the U.S. and Japan have joined forces in the most promising research program of the ocean floor. For several years, both old and new, purpose-built ships will conduct drilling of the oceanic crust in the most interesting points of the world's oceans.
The "Integrated Ocean Drilling" (Integrated Ocean Drilling Program — IODP) was launched in October 2003, but only now finished preparations and (at the end of June 2004) in the sea came the first scientific expedition, undertaken as part of IODP.
Before we tell you about this expedition, we must mention that the program is a joint effort (financially, organizationally and intellectually) of the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Ministry of Science and Technology of Japan, and the European Consortium of ocean drilling research in collaboration several research institutes, universities and companies in the U.S. , Japan and Europe.
As the name suggests, the researchers are interested primarily processes taking place below the ocean floor. Although so far the scientists' proverteli "in it about two thousand" holes "- a drop in the ocean.
Oceanic crust, and, by and large, continental shelves, too, remains terra incognita to science.
The data obtained in the course of the program IODP, as expected by its founders, will help scientists more fully recover the past history of the Earth's climate, a better understanding of plate tectonics, volcanoes and earthquakes, the causes of sea-level fluctuations
Likely to be able to learn new patterns in the evolution of life on the planet (deep biological communities also will be in the focus of researchers).
It is possible that in some places drillers will be able for the first time in the world to get through to the mantle, which lies under the ocean crust. But this — a little later.
A first expedition of the program went to the vicinity of Vancouver Island (Vancouver Island) on the American ship-driller JOIDES Resolution.
The goal — to study a curious phenomenon overflow huge masses of water under the ocean floor — through cracks and fissures in the crust.
One of these areas, "Pan" flow and was found a few years ago near Vancouver Island.
Driven by small differences in the temperature and pressure at different points of the ocean floor, and — geothermal heat flow of hydrothermal this extraordinarily productive — for hundreds of thousands of years in the underground caverns beneath the ocean floor can visit all the water planet.
This process affects the chemistry of the ocean, changes the properties of the Earth's crust directly affects the microbial communities that live below the bottom.
But, according to the head of the expedition — Professor Andrew Fisher (Andrew Fisher) from the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) — "We know that this is important, but we really do not understand quite well how it works."
Scientists plan to build the world's first on the road this "Pan" range of water flow well with devices that will put a lot of data about the physics, chemistry and microbiology cracks lying hundreds of meters below the seabed.
Appetite comes with eating. You can imagine what the results will bring new drilling vessel construction and equipment which have been completed in Japan in April 2004.
Chikyu — the joint brainchild of Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Compared with the veteran underwater drilling JOIDES Resolution newfound Japanese driller — a real Godzilla.
Ship length — 210 meters, width — 38 meters, displacement — about 58,000 tons.
But, of course, the most impressive on the Chikyu — this drilling rig.
The maximum length of the column (total) is 12 kilometers away.
A water depth at which the ship can drill is 7 miles away. This gives the opportunity to explore the lion's share of the ocean floor.
In this case, the maximum depth (water, plus marine sediments and crust) Chikyu may omit drills with scientific equipment and extract core samples of rocks.
And in the depths of the ocean to 4 kilometers and the ship can drill these wells, in which a material is pumped up (like oil and gas wells) — crushed rock with water, sediment …
To do this, the center of the hollow drill down water is pumped under tremendous pressure, and it goes back to the outer annulus (drill string is a doll of several tubes of different diameters).
Of course, while the ship conducts drilling, it should remain in place. Such stabilization may be likened to an intricate dance.
To do this, Chikyu has GPS navigation system, and as many as seven of rotating water jet propulsion units with total capacity of about 11 megawatts — enough to counteract any currents and winds.
It is on the Chikyu program authors lay the main hope, but to drill the newborn will start a little later.
Experts call IODP one of the most ambitious scientific programs of humanity, along with space exploration of Mars, Saturn and the distant stars. Well, in that the ocean hides secrets no less than the space — no need to convince anyone.
However, all the mystery, even a protected oceanic crust, as we see, it is possible to find a suitable "drill".
News.Battery.Ru — Accumulator News, 06.07.2004 14:23