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: Start of dwarf planet mission delayed after small mix-up

Related Stories

IceBridge overflies Norwegian camp on drifting sea ice

Mar 27, 2015

Studying sea ice in the Fram Strait, a passage between Greenland and Svalbard that is the main gateway for Arctic sea ice into the open ocean, is not easy. In this area, not only does ice flow southward quickly ...

Extreme science in the Arctic

Feb 25, 2015

A research team from Northwestern University was dropped by helicopter in the desolate wilderness of Greenland with four weeks of provisions and the goal of collecting ancient specimens preserved in Arctic lakebeds.

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

Zapping away space junk

8 hours ago

Planet Earth is surrounded. Thousands of tons of dangerous space debris circle in low orbit, threatening serious damage, even death, if any were to strike the International Space Station. A proposal by a ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.