The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) conducts scientific drilling expeditions throughout the world's oceans in search of clues to Earth's structure and past. Currently, we are on Expedition 376, at the Brothers volcano approx. 400 kilometers northeast of New Zealand. We're retrieving and analyzing core samples and borehole data from three different locations at the volcano. Core samples and data are being used to determine the composition of fluids at depth, the chemical reactions that take place on the way to the seafloor, and how various metals are transported and deposited within the seafloor. We're also examining the effects of acidic environments on the microbes that live in and around hydrothermal vents.

Expedition 376

Thank you all for asking great questions! We are no longer accepting questions on here, but be sure to follow us on social media to keep up with the expedition!

Comments: 40 • Responses: 14  • Date: 

Skyprotocol7 karma

Hi there, will samples of the 'extremophile prokaryotes & viruses' be given to medical researches for possible application in treatments of diseases? Thank you.

IODP5 karma

Yes, if we can find a gene (or genes) in the genome of our prokaryotic samples, it could have the potential to be used in medical research. Before this happens, we need to conduct many more tests though! Good question.

chefatwork6 karma

You probably don't have much to say about this expedition since it's ongoing, but in previous drills is there anything you've come across or discovered that's really surprised/excited you? And in regards to this expedition, what are you hoping to learn or prove? Is there anything about this particular area that has inspired your mission? Thanks!

IODP6 karma

Susan Humprhis here- I was on an expedition in 1994, when the first submarine hot spring was drilled in the Atlantic Ocean. We drilled through broken-up lava that was cemented together by beautiful white & gold minerals (oooooh).

Lanlan Cai- Regarding this expedition, because we are at a location with low pH and high temperatures, we are exploring the limits of life!

The very unusual environment- low pH, high temperatures- is something that brought us here.

Thanks for asking!

LordGreyson5 karma

Hi, thank you for taking the time to do an AMA! I know a couple people have asked about interesting experiences, but what was the most... Unsettling?

IODP5 karma

We're in a highly acidic environment at the bottom of our drill hole, so it's a bit unsettling thinking about what this environment could possibly do to our equipment.

CSMiddleSchoolTeach3 karma

I imagine it is sometimes hard to wait for the core sample to come up. How do you pass the time while waiting? Do you feel the mission has been a success? Hi Susan Humphris!

IODP4 karma

Hi Carolyn!

Cores are coming up approximately every hour, so there's actually not been that much down time between core samples! Microbiology samples are processed as soon as possible.

We are working 24 hours per day, on 12 hour shifts, so there is always someone present to receive and start the core analysis process!

We think we have a successful mission!


Menthol223 karma

How is it decided who gets to sail on an IODP expedition?

IODP3 karma

Expeditions are international, so scientists from all member countries of IODP can apply to sail. Then, the co-chief scientists & expedition manager select those who will participate, based on expertise and the number of berths allotted to each particular country. We not only try to select a range of disciplines, but also ensure we bring early-career scientists along with crusty old sea dogs :)

Thanks for asking!

ReadySetGO02 karma

How large a craft are you on? How many of you are there? Is work going on 24/7 ? What do you do on a day off?

Thank you!

IODP3 karma

The JOIDES Resolution is ~475 feet in length (143 meters); there's still 123 of us on board; work does happen 24/7 (we are all on 12 hour shifts). We don't get days off! But on our 12 hours off, we eat and then go to the gym :) Or watch movies, or watch sunset on deck, play table tennis, count albatrosses...

tutoko2 karma

Have you been collecting and measuring fluids coming into the boreholes? If so, what is showing up???

IODP3 karma

We have indeed been collecting fluids, and we are busy analyzing for major & minor elements. So far, we've found that the fluid is very acidic and contains a lot of dissolved gases. Thanks!

plagioclassy2 karma

How does a volcano explode underwater? Is this something scientists can study even if you can't observe the volcano erupting directly?

IODP2 karma

Great question Plagioclassy! By collecting rocks from the seafloor we can investigate how submarine volcanoes erupted in the past, even if we weren't there to see it happen. An important control on whether an eruption is gentle (e.g. lava flows) or explosive (forming ash and pumice) is how much gas the magma contains, and whether it can produce lots of gas bubbles before it erupts. Underwater volcanoes have the weight of a lot of water pressing down on them, and that higher pressure makes it harder for them to have lots of bubbles by the time they erupt. But, we know that some underwater volcanoes can produce explosive blasts, and gas rich pumice that can reach the sea surface and even float on the water. So, the more of these rocks we can collect and study, the more we can investigate how these eruptions happen.

IODP2 karma

We are here, ready and waiting for your questions! It's 6am here in New Zealand-- help keep us awake by asking some questions!

plagioclassy2 karma

When a core comes up on deck, what tools do you use to study it? Are there many people working on the same drill core?

IODP2 karma

Hey there plagioclassy ;)

The tools we use include big saws to cut the rock in half horizontally, then we do WRMSL, then NGR, SHMSL, SHIL, SHLF, XRD, XRF, ICP, P-MAG, EFM, and before finally, going MAD!

poopeymang2 karma

How deep do you typically drill and what has been your favorite location you have deployed?

IODP2 karma

For the majority of the science team, this is our first time on the JOIDES Resolution, so this (Brothers volcano) is our favorite location!

Our deepest depth we've drilled here at Brothers is ~350 meters below the seafloor, but if conditions are right, we can go much deeper. Our current water depth is ~1300 meters.

tutoko2 karma

There are famously lots of hydrothermal at mid-ocean ridges, are there also lots of these kinds of vents? In other words, is the Brothers system special, or just the most convenient to visit?

IODP2 karma

There are 3 things you need for a hydrothermal vent: 1) heat, 2) fluid, and 3) permeable rock-- so they can be found on underwater volcanoes that are not at plate boundaries as well at mid-ocean ridges and converging plate boundaries. This expedition is examining the differences between mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal systems and those occurring on volcanoes in volcanic arcs at converging plate boundaries. Great question!

CSMiddleSchoolTeach2 karma

What is your favorite rock or mineral you have found so far and why? Thanks.

IODP2 karma

Pyrite AKA fool's gold, because it's pretty & shiny :)

Plagioclase, because it provides us with a record of how the composition of rocks that have erupted at this volcano have changed over time. It's like reading a history book of the growth of this volcano.

robmarivela1 karma

have you found any prove of an ancient alien civilization down there?

Also, do you guys get stressed of not seeing land for a while?

IODP3 karma

We are investigating extremophile prokaryotes & viruses (phages) around the hydrothermal vents- these could be good practice for looking for life on other planets.

We haven't seen land since May 6, but we are definitely enjoying the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets here on the Pacific. We have albatrosses flying by every day, and if we're lucky, might spot a spout from a whale!