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Surtsey Volcano, Iceland

Surtsey Volcano

Dr. Marie Jackson, University of Utah

Surtsey Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site located off the south coast of Iceland.  This protected island is recognized worldwide as a natural laboratory for investigating processes of rift zone volcanism, hydrothermal alteration and biological colonization of basaltic tephra, and development of industrial resources using palagonitic tuff as a prototype for sustainable, high performance concretes.

An 181m hole was drilled in 1979 (Jakobsson & Moore 1986) and provided a petrological, mineralogical, and thermal framework to understand early eruptive and hydrothermal processes in tephra and feeder dikes and the structure of the volcano above and below sea level. Subsurface microbiota have now been observed in fluids extracted below the 120 °C thermal barrier of microbial life.

In 2016, DOSECC was retained as part of the SUSTAIN drilling program (Surtsey Underwater volcanic System for Thermophiles, Alteration processes and INnovative concretes) to core  two  holes while protecting the sensitive wildlife and vegetative habitats of the Surtsey Natural Reserve. A clean, 200-meter-deep vertical hole with anodized aluminum casing will be  used to explore pore water chemistry, microbiota-water- rock interactions, and seawater compositional modifications over time.

After drilling is complete, a Surtsey Subsurface Observatory will be installed in this hole for long term monitoring and in situ experiments. A 300-meter- long angle hole with steel casing inclined west toward the eastern volcanic vent axis will intersect dike intrusions, provide additional information on deep stratigraphy and structure, and investigate higher temperature zones of the hydrothermal system.

The SUSTAIN drilling program will be the first to sample microbial colonization of tephra, together with its pore water, through a neo-volcanic island from the surface to the seafloor with all precautions taken to avoid contamination from the surroundings. The subseafloor pressure at the Surtsey Microbial Observatory at 0.2 km depth will be lower than that typical of the neovolcanic zone of mid-ocean ridges at ~2.5 km depth. More phase separation (boiling) can therefore occur in this shallow environment at temperatures relevant to microbial metabolism.

Because many of the energy-rich substances capable of supporting autotrophic life (e.g. H 2 , H 2 S, CH 4 ) partition into the vapor phase, there may be higher redox gradients and more spatial diversity in microhabitats in this environment compared to those on the ridge crest. Studies of microbial colonization of the altered subterrestrial tephra and hydrothermal fluids could provide new insights into archaeal lineages in the very young biosphere and, possibly, contribute to understanding the nature of the archaeal ancestor of eukaryotic organisms.

The Surtsey hydrothermal system is one of the few localities worldwide that is actively producing a rare authigenic Al-tobermorite and zeolite assemblage (Jakobsson and Moore, 1986). Tobermorite, Ca 5 Si 6 O 16 (OH) 2 ·4H 2 O, with 11 Å c-axis interlayer spacing, is formed by the action of hydrous fluids on basic igneous rocks. It also occurs among the alteration products at the cement–rock interface of toxic and nuclear waste repositories. It is a candidate sorbent for nuclear and hazardous waste encapsulation owing to its ion-exchange behavior which arises from the facile replacement of labile interlayer cations.

Al-tobermorite and phillipsite also occur as the principal cementitious mineral phases in the volcanic ash-lime mortar of 2000-year-old Roman concrete harbor structures. Little is known about how hydrothermal chemistry and phase-stability relationships in Al-tobermorite and zeolite mineral assemblages evolve as a function of time, temperature, fluid interactions, and microbial activity. The new cores will therefore provide a real-time geologic analog for understanding the evolving microstructures and macroscopic physical properties of tuff and sustainable concrete prototypes with pozzolanic pyroclastic rocks under the variable hydrothermal conditions of the engineered barriers of waste repositories.

Deepening of the inclined hole may resolve the disparity in the two models regarding the width of the subseafloor diatreme structure underneath Surtsey, and possibly intersect the outer wall of the diatreme if it is sufficiently narrow. Analyses of core from the inclined hole should also provide information about how the onset of fragmentation, submarine transport of tephra, and deposition in the submarine environment differs from what is represented in subaerial deposits.

The extent to which Surtsey’s activity was predominantly phreatomagmatic, versus the degree to which it involved substantial volatile-driven magmatic explosivity has important implications for predicting potential hazards to air traffic from future Surtseyan-type eruptions. These processes can be clarified with rigorous analysis of deposits combined with experiments using remelted material from the island.

The unique and distinguishing feature of the drilling program is to apply volcanological, geochemical, mineralogical, microbiological and geoarchaeological perspectives to create a new diagenetic and biogenetic paradigm for pyroclastic rock concretes with cation-exchange properties and long term societal benefits for human and earth ecology.  Drilling is expected to take place in the summer of 2017.

Related Publications

Jakobsson, S., and Moore, J. G. (1986) Hydrothermal minerals and alteration rates at Surtsey volcano, Iceland. GSA Bulletin, 97, 648–659.

Related News Releases

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Lake Challa, Kenya

Lake Challa Scientific Drilling Project

 

Professor Dirk Verschuren, University of Ghent

In late 2016, DOSECC will participate in the DeepCHALLA project in conjunction with the ICDP, the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program.  The project will  require our team to obtain core samples through open-water drilling on Lake Challa, a volcanic crater lake on the border of Tanzania and Kenya. The water body is fed by groundwater from Mount Kilimanjaro and is surrounded by a 100 metres high crater rim, requiring unique considerations for the design, systems engineering, and staff training necessary to obtain quality core samples.

Climate records obtained through sub-tropical cores are compared to those taken in polar regions to determine climate variations. Climate records previously available required the data additional samples from an equatorial region could provide in order to better map historical global climate patterns.  Lake Challa’s location provided an ideal location due to the convergence of both northern and southern hemisphere monsoon activity and the zone of convection between Atlantic and Indian Ocean moisture sources.

The goal of this project was to drill a quality core sample that would clearly show climate and ecosystem conditions over the past 250,000 years.  This span would encompass two full glacial-interglacial cycles and the entire known existence of modern humans in East Africa. The climate record’s length, in tandem with excellent sediment conditions, creates an unprecedented opportunity to better understand climate variability and record extremes and weather events.

Objectives:

  1. Reconstruct two glacial-interglacial cycles of tropical monsoon dynamics over the western Indian Ocean.
  2. Document long-term biodiversity patterns and ecological dynamics of a tropical savanna ecosystem in response to changes in atmospheric CO2, temperature, moisture balance, and fire.
  3. Reconstruct the long-term dynamics of a tropical freshwater ecosystem (nutrient budget, aquatic productivity) in response to climate-driven changes.
  4. Show exactly how often, when, and how much the East African landscape has changed throughout the entire existence of anatomically modern humans

Not only is this project designed to better understand and predict climate and ecosystem variations, it provides critical data in the study of why early human ancestors expanded from Africa into the Middle East and Eurasia ~100,000 years ago.

Read more about this scientific drilling project at ICDP .

November 2016 Lake Challa Scientific Drilling Project Update

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Chicxulub Project Watched Around the World

scientific research

 

With the successful conclusion of the high-profile Chicxulub Crater project last month, we are sharing here the kudos the project team received from around the world.  The Chicxulub core drilling project sought to shed light on the crater left by the asteroid that led to a global mass extinction—what geophysicist and expedition leader Joanna Morgan called “The most important event in the last 100 million years.” The drilling was recognized and photographed by journalists and scientists from around the world, the Governor of Yucatan, and even an astronaut orbiting the earth.  

 

You can read more about the project here.

www.dosecc.com/chicxulub-yucatan-mexico

 

Here are just a few excerpts of the coverage:

Discover Magazine: How We Found the Dinosaur Doomsday Site (March 23, 2016)

“In the coming weeks, a team of scientists will begin drilling Chicxulub’s central peak ring for the first time. Discover will be on site in Mexico as the team tries to answer some of those questions.”

 

NATURE: Geologists Drill into Heart of Dinosaur-Killing Impact (March 31, 2016)

“‘All of this happened in the span of several devastating minutes, says Joanna Morgan, a geophysicist at Imperial College London and the project’s co-chief scientist. ‘It’s astounding.’”

 

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: What Really Killed the Dinosaurs? (April 4, 2016)

“An extraordinary vessel—part ship and part drilling rig —is being equipped in the port of Progreso, Mexico, to drill into Earth’s past. This spring and summer it will attempt to recover a thin cylinder of rock, 3 ¼ inches wide by 3,300 feet long, starting in the Eocene world about 50 million years ago, drilling all the way back into rocks created and contorted by an asteroid impact, 66 million years ago, when the dinosaurs disappeared.”

 

WASHINGTON POST: 66 million years ago an asteroid destroyed the dinosaurs. Now scientists are drilling into the crater it made to understand how.  (April 6, 2016)

“The Chicxulub crater, as the site is known, is buried in sediment and hidden beneath some 1,500 feet of water. That makes it very hard to study, even though it’s ground zero of one of the worst mass extinctions in Earth’s history, one of just five times when life itself out on the planet was in danger of being snuffed.”

 

NPR: Scientists Set To Drill Into Extinction-Event Crater In Mexico (April 8, 2016)

“In addition to being interesting from an extinction element, it’s also interesting because it’s a well-preserved, very large crater that we can access without leaving the planet. It’s equivalent to studying the really big craters with peak rings, for instance, on the moon, on Mercury, on Mars — but obviously at a fraction of the cost.”

—Sean Gulick, University of Texas at Austin geophysicist, team co-lead

 

PHYS.ORG: How Does an Invisible Underwater Crater Prove an Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs? (April 14, 2016)

“A team of scientists recently set off to drill a 1,500m-deep hole into the seabed off the coast of Mexico. Their goal is to learn more about the asteroid impact some 66m years ago that many scientists believe killed the dinosaurs.”

 

YUCATAN TIMES: International Scientific Expedition Drilling off the Yucatan Coast (April 2016)

“Drillers will quickly bore their way through the top 500 metres of sediments, and then collect core samples more carefully as they go deeper…At about 600 metres, the core will pass through rock from the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, when temperatures spiked about 55 million years ago, creating a greenhouse world. At 650 metres the core should hit the peak ring.”

 

NPR: Geologists Find Clues In Crater Left By Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid (May 6, 2016)

“We went through a remarkable amount of the post-impact world. All the way into the Eocene times — so between 50 and 55 million years ago.”

—Sean Gulick, University of Texas at Austin geophysicist, team co-lead

 

YUCATAN.COM  There’s Life in the Chicxulub Crater (May 17, 2016)
“The first results of the Chicxulub crater project are encouraging with valuable clues, say scientists of Mission 364.” English version here –

www.dosecc.com/chicxulub-project-report-from-the-yucatan-2/

 

BBC: Chicxulub ‘Dinosaur’ Crater Drill Project Declared a Success (May 25, 2016)

“”It’s been a remarkable success. We’ve got deeper than I thought we might do,”
—Dave Smith, British Geological Survey

 

TIM PEAKE, Astronaut at the International Space Station, Facebook

“66 million years ago a 14-km wide asteroid struck this part of Mexico and wiped out the dinosaurs. Asteroid Day. Looking north-east at the most eastern part of Mexico, Yucatan and Cancún.”


image

   Credit: Tim Peake

 

“Outstanding job and congratulations to the DOSECC folks!”

—Javier Zevallos – General Manager Mexico & Central America, AMC Drilling Fluids & Products

 

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Chicxulub, Yucatan, Mexico

Chicxulub Scientific Core Drilling Services Project

 

Chicxulub

 

During April and May 2016, DOSECC participated as part of a joint IODP-ICDP Mission Specific Platform on Expedition 364 on the L/B Myrtle in the Chicxulub Crater as part of the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling.  The team was tasked with drilling to 1,500 m below the bottom of the ocean to obtain the first offshore core samples from the peak ring in the central zone of the crater.  

The Chicxulub Crater is an impact crater straddling land and sea on the Mexican Yucatán Peninsula.  The estimated date of the impact which created the crater is now widely accepted as the event that triggered the mass extinction of over 70% of life on earth during the the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary (K–Pg boundary), approximately 66 million years ago, including the global extinction of non-avian dinosaurs.

The crater itself is believed to have been created by an asteroid with an estimated diameter of 60 km, leaving a crater over 180 km in diameter and 20 km deep. After its discovery in the 1970s, it was confirmed in 1991 as an impact crater due to the discovery of shocked quartz, a gravity anomaly, and tektites in surrounding areas, including samples high in iridium. The minerals around the crater layer include limestone and marl to a depth of almost 1,000 m (3,300 ft) and date to the Paleocene era.  Underneath this layer, another 500 m of andesite glass and breccia are found.  However, within the crater, these andesitic igneous rocks were only found as shocked quartz and the K–Pg boundary is depressed to 600 to 1,100 m (average depth is about 500 m surrounding the crater).

The Chicxulub Crater is the only known crater on the planet with a remaining impact peak ring.  However, the ring is located under 600 m of sediment.  This project revealed the peak ring to be a thick layer of broken, melted rock just beneath a layer of sandstone, which may point to the possibility of an enormous tsunami triggered by the impact.

Upon the successful completion of the project, the samples were shipped to Bremen, Germany, where ECORD Science Party members will then analyze the samples to determine the formation of the peak ring and to calculate total impact energy. Samples taken reflect the post-impact conditions from the Eocene era, between 50 and 55 million years ago, and will likely reveal through the sediment and fossil record new information about how the environment and life began to recover after the cataclysm.

Read related blog posts:

Preparing for Chicxulub: Time Lapse of the Load

A Birds-Eye View of the Rig at Chicxulub, DOSECC Core Drilling Services

Chicxulub Project Watched Around the World

Chicxulub Project Report from the Yucatan

DOSECC Recognized by ESO Expedition 364 at the Chicxulub Impact Crater

DOSECC Chicxulub Project Covered on MSN

NPR Coverage of DOSECC Drilling Project in Chicxulub

Shattered Earth Making Rock Flow – ESO Expedition 364

BBC Coverage on how cores from this project are being studied

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Chicxulub Project Report from the Yucatan

Chicxulub Project Report

English Translation of Yucatan Article


This month Mission 364 began research work at the Chicxulub Crater site. Scientists in charge of the project are encouraging and say they already are seeing interesting results.

The evidence found in the layers of earth found 32 kilometers from the sea port of Progreso confirms the prehistoric stage of the event.  To successfully complete the project, the team had to reach the layer of the meteorite impact under the Gulf of Mexico.  Experts expect to obtain samples of microbial life that reveal data on the recovery of life after the crash of the celestial body which is believed to have caused the extinction of 76% of life in the Cretaceous period.

 

So far the project has resulted in 100 cores of sediment and rock fragments with an approximate age of 66 million years, which corroborate the geological timeframe of the phenomenon being studied.  The evidence being collected will allow researchers, after an exhaustive analysis in German laboratories, to determine whether or not microorganisms were able to survive in the area covered by the impact area.

 

Background


In 1952, Pemex began drilling the first well in the subsoil called “Chicxulub 1”. That drilling confirmed that there was no oil in that region of Yucatan, but some anomalies were discovered in the lower strata. Geophysical studies later determined the existence of a crater in the area.

Decades later and after further studies, on Saturday [May] 14, a team of researchers tackled the Myrtle drilling platform to begin drilling in the earth’s crust in the area of ​​impact.  The first rock samples were found at a depth of 500 meters, the final goal is 1,500 meters.

To understand the work being done on the platform, reporters from Grupa Megamedia set sail aboard the ship “Linda F.” and came to the place called Chicxulub Crater. There, a group of scientists led by Drs. Jaime Urrutia Fucugauchi and Ligia Pérez-Cruz, the Institute of Geophysics of the UNAM and other specialists from six countries explained the progress of the investigation, how they obtained the samples, and how the core analysis will be studied to confirm their theories.

“The expectations we had at the beginning of the project are being met, as we have drilled almost 750 meters and the first part corresponding to the stage of Paleogene, where some microfossils were found, which could imply the analysis was done in the preliminary strata,” explains Dr.. Ligia Perez-Cruz.

 

After a brief tour on the platform to better understand the laboratories and the methods used to extract samples, Dr. Sean Gulick of the Institute of Geophysics at the University of Texas, and Dr. Joanna Morgan of Imperial College in London, said that after drilling, underground sensors are introduced to collect data and determine the type of material found at that depth. The rocks are then removed and passed to an initial laboratory where they are cleaned and are subsequently analyzed by microbiologists on board. Later, the rocks are taken to another laboratory for microbiological analysis.

 

Original Spanish article by Rodrigo Garcia Aranda.

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Geothermal Play Fairway Analysis of the Snake River Plain, Idaho

Geothermal Play Fairway Analysis

 

GEOTHERMAL PLAY FAIRWAY ANALYSIS OF THE SNAKE RIVER PLAIN, IDAHO
Presented by Dennis L. Nielson, DOSECC President, at the Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering Stanford University, Stanford, California, January 26-28, 2015

ABSTRACT

Play Fairway Analysis is a systematic approach to exploration that integrates data at the regional or basin scale in order to define exploration targets (plays), and then interrogates these data to highlight plays that have the highest likelihood of success. Play Fairway Analysis provides greater technical rigor than traditional geothermal exploration approaches, and facilitates quantification of play risks even when data are sparse or incomplete. It is a mature practice in petroleum, but represents a new approach for geothermal that we believe will aid in the discovery of buried or blind systems. A key challenge will be adapting fairway analysis to geothermal exploration in a way that provides both meaningful results and measurable return on investment. In this project, we focus on the Snake River Plain where, during Project HOTSPOT, our team discovered a blind hydrothermal system at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. From that discovery we are able to define key parameters that characterize the elements necessary for a geothermal reservoir based on basaltic (plume-related) magmatism, fracturing that defines a reservoir volume, seals that are provided by lake beds, hyaloclastics, and highly altered clay-rich basalts, and fluid recharge that is controlled by faulting and the primary permeability of basalt flows. Project Hotspot identified three different play types in the SRP (a) high thermal gradients along the volcanic axis beneath the SRP aquifer, (b) extremely large low temperature systems, and (c) blind high-temperature systems like that discovered at Mountain Home. Phase 1 of this project will assess the distribution and viability of these plays throughout the SRP region; Phase 2 will focus on detailed analyses of specific plays as we move from a Regional/Basin focus to a Play/Prospect focus. Our approach is to analyze direct and indirect methodologies for identifying critical reservoir parameters: heat source, reservoir permeability, seal and recharge.

Read full publication here.