In early March, the RRS James Cook set sail on its maiden voyage to explore the depths beneath the Atlantic Ocean. Using a state-of-the-art rock drill, a team of scientists aboard the ship will extract core samples from the seabed more than 16,000 feet below the surface of the ocean.
The RRS James Cook set sail on its maiden voyage in early March to explore the mysterious world beneath the Atlantic Ocean.
The ship is carrying a team of scientists to the Mid Atlantic Ridge, a massive underwater volcanic mountain range, where they will spend six weeks taking measurements and core samples using purpose-built instruments and robotic submarine vehicles.
Led by Professor Roger Searle from Durham University, the team will try to discover why a huge hole has appeared in the Earth’s crust in a region of the ridge known as the Fifteen-Twenty Fracture Zone.
Tectonic plates move away from each other at the Mid Atlantic Ridge, and usually the gap that is left fills with hot, molten rock rising from the Earth’s mantle beneath. For some reason, it seems the Earth is not repairing itself and a gaping hole remains.
Dr Chris MacLeod from Cardiff University is one of the scientists aboard the ship. He says, "It doesn’t quite fit the generally accepted model of plate tectonics. We hope to get a direct insight into the processes that go on in the Earth."
The scientists expect that their work will help to answer some of the uncertainties over how the Earth’s crust forms. Professor Searle comments, "This is probably the first area where the mantle has been observed extensively on the seafloor. It gives us a unique opportunity to study this enigmatic part of the Earth in detail."
Aiding the scientists in their work is the ship itself. The RRS James Cook is an advanced scientific research ship that can maintain a stable position above the mountainous ridge. This ability will allow the scientists to take precise measurements, extract core samples using a state-of-the-art- rock drill, and deploy and recover the robotic vehicle that will be collecting samples from the seabed more than 16,000 feet below the surface of the ocean.
Exploring the Mysteries of the Deep
March 14, 2007