Ground-Breaking Arctic Expedition

Sep 28, 2004

A scientific party including four University of Rhode Island oceanographers and a science teacher from Narragansett Pier Middle School has just returned from the Arctic Ocean on a landmark expedition to recover seafloor sediments to reconstruct the geologic history of the Arctic. The nineteen scientists on the expedition, hailing from eight nations, collected a total of 339 meters of sediment, the oldest of which is 80 million years.

URI ocean engineer and geological oceanographer Dr. Kathryn Moran, the expedition’s co-chief scientist, noted, “Although we’ve looked at only 3% of the material so far, it reveals a treasure-trove of exciting results. For example, 55 million years ago, the sediments indicate that the Arctic was an ice-free balmy sea, with warm surface waters (68°F rather than today’s 28°F) that were sometimes less salty, almost like an estuary. With further research, we expect to uncover additional clues as to how Earth’s climate system worked long ago, prior to mankind’s ‘global experiment’ of pumping massive quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere.”

The primary objective of the $12.5 million Arctic Coring Expedition (ACEX), conducted under the auspices of the international Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, was to recover hundreds of meters of sediment draped atop the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain chain that snakes from Greenland, to the North Pole, and over to Russia.

In addition to Moran, the URI/GSO scientists on the expedition included biological oceanographer Dr. David Smith, assistant dean Dr. John Farrell, and graduate student Matthew O’Regan. GSO geological oceanographer Dr. John King will also join in the effort during the post-expedition phase. Also on the expedition, as part of the URI ARMADA Project, was Narragansett teacher Kathy Couchon.

This expedition is the first ever to successfully recover long sediment cores from the high Arctic. Logistical challenges, such a surface ocean that’s more than 90% covered with thick (3 to 15 feet) ice that often drifts at 0.3 knots, has previously thwarted efforts to keep a drillship on a fixed location. The ACEX expedition used three icebreakers to meet this challenge, and the team successfully penetrated up to 430 meters below the seafloor in water depths of over 1300 meters.

In November, the ACEX team will travel to the core repository, in Bremen, Germany, to begin analyzing the cores and generating additional scientific results.

Source: University of Rhode Island

Explore further: Chilly end for sex geckos sent into space by Russia

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

EU project sails off to study Arctic sea ice

Aug 29, 2014

A one-of-a-kind scientific expedition is currently heading to the Arctic, aboard the South Korean icebreaker Araon. This joint initiative of the US and Korea will measure atmospheric, sea ice and ocean properties with technology ...

Arctic sea ice influenced force of the Gulf Stream

Aug 21, 2014

The force of the Gulf Stream was significantly influenced by the sea ice situation in the Fram Strait in the past 30,000 years. Scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine ...

How is the Arctic Ocean changing?

Jun 14, 2011

On coming Wednesday, 15 June, the research vessel Polarstern of the German Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association will set off on its 26th arctic expedition. Over 130 scientists ...

Recommended for you

Caterpillar comet poses for pictures en route to Mars

9 hours ago

Now that's pure gorgeous. As Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring sidles towards its October 19th encounter with Mars, it's passing a trio of sumptuous deep sky objects near the south celestial pole this week. ...

Hoisting a telescope with helium

9 hours ago

Many a child has forgotten to hold tight to the string of a helium balloon only to have it escape and rise until it disappeared in the glare of the sun. Helium balloons want to rise, but launching a balloon ...

User comments : 0