Drilling Program" in Irish Waters
about coral reefs one always tend to visualize them in warm, bright and
shallow areas, such as in Australian waters or the Bahamas, however they
have also been found in gloomy, cold and deep waters, off the coasts of
41 countries including Ireland. They occur at depths of hundreds of metres
to just a few tens of metres, in several settings across almost all the
world's oceans, sometimes emerging from giant carbonate mounds.
IODP research vessel,
the Joides Resolution
idea of drilling into these giant mounds to unveil the secrets trapped
in these cemeteries of coral and sediments originated a few years
back. But it was only in May of 2005 that the idea finally materialized
when an international research expedition took place entirely in
Irish waters. The expedition concentrated on drilling the Challenger
mound (170m high) in the Porcupine Seabight. From an environmental
perspective this mound was chosen very carefully indeed as it is
mostly covered by dead coral.
Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) is an international marine
research programme that explores the Earth's history and structure
as recorded in seafloor sediments and rocks, and monitors subseafloor
environments. It is managed by an American management agency, IODP-MI,
and funded by USA, Japan, ECORD (European interests) and China. The
platform to carry out this ambitious drilling programme was the American
rig vessel, the Joides Resolution (124m). Leaving Dublin Port
on April 28th she successfully drilled 11 holes, of average 200m length,
in three target sites, recovering 1400m of sediment core.
Preparing the drill bit...
Sample of cross
from the expedition are now working up answers to some very important
questions. They have already demonstrated that the mound developed
around 1.8 million years ago and it consists of a 155m thick sequence
of coral fragments and sediments from top to base. They are now
studying the coral fragments for information about the past climate
in the region in order to perhaps predict future trends. Such research
and results originating from an innovative and prestigious expedition
in Irish waters will heighten awareness of the development of cold
water coral banks in the Atlantic, and will significantly enhance
Irish marine science's reputation across the globe.
further information on the origins of IODP please click here
to view details of its precursor programme, the ODP - Ocean Drilling Program.