Another way to cook rocks: in water!

Remember the blogpost where experiments were compared to cooking? Well, we can take that parallel even further and use more water to heat the rock with! As I mentioned in a previous post, rocks at the seafloor can get altered when fluids move through them. We call these hydrothermal systems, which can have spectacular venting sites on the seafloor. One way to find out more about the process behind these systems is studying natural examples that underwent hydrothermal fluid circulation; another way is by trying to reproduce these processes in the lab. But how can we do this when water is involved? Continue reading

An adventure on the JOIDES Resolution: One year later

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Fig. 1 – (Top) One of the many magnificent sunrises observed by scientists on board the JR; (Bottom) View of the derrick, tower that holds the drill string, from the Bridge Deck, and (Top-left) all Expedition 360 participants. Images credits: William Crawford, Exp. 360 Senior Imaging Specialist; Jiansong Zhang, Exp. 360 Education/Outreach Officer.

Earlier this year Barbara wrote about ‘Life on board of a scientific drilling vessel’. That interview gave some hints in the unique experience my colleagues and I shared on board the Joides Resolution. Now, you might wonder what Joides Resolution (JR) exactly is. The JR is a drilling vessel dedicated to scientific research on ocean and ocean crust dynamics. Different disciplines are involved, from geology (to elucidate the formation of the oceanic crust), to climate change science (to understand how the Earth handled past climatic events), oceanography (to study global water circulation), or microbiology (to track extreme life in rocks forming the ocean floor).Cores of rocks are drilled under the ocean floor, giving scientists a glimpse into Earth’s dynamics. The JR works for the international research program IODP (International Ocean Discovery Program), a marine research collaboration that aims at recovering data recorded in seafloor sediments and rocks, and monitoring subseafloor environments. Continue reading

An ocean on land

Science is not all about books or laboratories, but also includes fieldwork. Unlike what people might think, this is not a holiday (although you get to bring home a lot of beautiful pictures) but work. And it is crucial for geology! But what do we do? And why? Standing in a beautiful landscape surrounded by rocks that contain information you are looking for, science shows a very different and adventurous side. Since our blog is about oceanic rocks, fieldwork can involve going on a ship. However, an ocean can be found also on land, and as we will show you in this movie, Oman hosts oceanic rocks with plenty of interesting features.

Up and down! What?

What happens when magnetic reversals occur? This is what I asked my professor during my first year at university when he mentioned the “reversals of the Earth’s magnetic field” and I remember that joking he answered: we will be “up and down”!

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Figure 1: Cartoon of a man being up and down.

Well, this would be an interesting experience but instead of us, our compass needle is reversing! This may sound boring but there is a lot more around this phenomenon. No human on Earth has experienced a magnetic reversal as we are too young for that (the latest one occurred 780,000 years ago); however there is evidence that it happened many times in the Earth’s history. Its discovery has played a major role in the development of Earth Science. Continue reading

Chimneys and smoke at the bottom of the sea: signs of a fire below!

One of the most spectacular features of geology (at least to me) are black smokers. They consist of hollow conduits where hot, nearly boiling fluids exit the oceanic crust. These fluids can be white or black since they carry particles from underlying rocks. The smoke may contain valuable metals such as nickel, arsenic, copper, silver and even gold! On top of this, in the conduits or next to the chimneys, the most amazing and strange life forms can be found. All the more reason to explore what is going on there, and where we could expect systems like these to occur! Continue reading

Life on board of a scientific drilling vessel

Today, we are getting an impression of how daily life is on board of a scientific drilling vessel. At the moment Carlotta is on board the Joides Resolution, one of the scientific drilling ships of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). She is part of the Expedition 360 Southwest Indian Ridge with its goal to drill into rocks of the lowermost oceanic crust and the crust-mantle transition zone (see blogpost about the oceanic crust). The SW Indian Ridge is a very slow spreading ridge (that means that the oceanic plates diverge about 8 mm/yr), located south-east of Madagascar (see image 1). The expedition started on 30th November, leaving Colombo and will end 30th of January once Port Louis will be reached. You see, this is quite a long time she is spending at sea!


I asked Carlotta a few question about how it is to be part of such an adventure and how it feels to work on a ship that moves all the time with the same group of people for 2 months!

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Image 1: Map showing the start (Colombo) and end (Port Louis) points of the cruise (in orange) as well as the transition (yellow dots) from Sri Lanka southwards to the drilling spot (dot in red). Map taken from IODP.

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The story of the oceanic crust and the deep carbon cycle

Where does a story start? Or should we better ask: Where does it end? Some stories even run in circles, happening all the time. One of those stories is the global cycle of chemical elements, a topic many geoscientists are investigating. In the ABYSS project, we all study phenomena that are more or less related to the formation of new oceanic crust. That is the start of a story: magma from the Earth’s mantle rises underneath mid-ocean ridges, where plates are moving apart below kilometers of water; the magma crystallizes and the resulting rocks form these new plates. We can already tell a lot of stories about the processes that happen while new crust is formed, in this dynamic zone of interactions between water, rocks and magma. But in this post, I would like to put those into a larger context: the story does not end after the oceanic crust cools down and is carried away from the mid ocean ridges, where it formed.

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Sketch of the deep carbon cycle – how carbon is transported through Earth`s interior.

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