Drilling into Young Oceanic Crust for Subseafloor Observations at Axial Seamount

Time: October 11-13, 2017

Location: Palisades, New York (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)

Workshop Organizers: Julie Huber (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Tim Crone (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory), and Deborah Kelley (University of Washington)

Image credits: OOI, Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility & Univ. of Washington (seafloor image) and Center for Environmental Visualization & OOI-RSN program, Univ. of Washington (map image)

Workshop Report:

Axial Seamount is the most magmatically active submarine volcano in the northeast Pacific and has been the focus of inter-disciplinary study for over three decades. The range of scientific interests includes volcanology, geophysical characterization and monitoring, hydrothermal vent formation and geochemistry, quantification of heat and chemical fluxes, hydrogeology, and the diversity and evolution of microbiological and animal communities. Axial Seamount erupted in January 1998, April 2011, and April 2015, thus the site presents a unique opportunity to study the interaction between volcanic, hydrothermal, and biological responses to magmatic and volcanic events. For these reasons, Axial Seamount was chosen as one of the key sites on the Ocean Observatories Initiative’s (OOI) cabled observatory network, the Cabled Array (CA). Now that the CA is fully operational with data streaming live to shore for two years from a diverse suite of cabled instruments, we want to explore how ocean drilling and related studies can complement seafloor-based investigations by gaining access to the subseafloor to expand our understanding of microbiological, geophysical, hydrologic, and geochemical processes at Axial Seamount.

The overall goal will be to develop a full IODP proposal for drilling and related experiments at Axial Seamount. The workshop will bring together a multidisciplinary group of scientists and engineers across a broad spectrum of ocean sciences and engineering to discuss recent engineering advances and practical issues related to drilling into zero-age oceanic crust, and to identify high priority science objectives and research opportunities that can only be achieved with ocean drilling at Axial Seamount.

To understand how drilling can contribute to our scientific understanding of subseafloor microbiology, hydrogeology, petrology, seismology, volcanology, and geochemistry at Axial Seamount, the objectives of the workshop are to:

  • Review the state of the technology for hard rock drilling with IODP
  • Review the results of drilling and/or downhole experimentation in other bare rock and/or hydrothermally active environments
  • Review the state of knowledge of Axial Seamount spanning biology to geophysics and including existing infrastructure and experiments already underway
  • Identify and prioritize the scientific questions at Axial Seamount that are best addressed by ocean drilling and downhole instrumentation
  • Determine the best drilling strategy and downhole instrumentation to achieve the scientific objectives at Axial Seamount
  • Determine how to best integrate downhole observatories with the OOI seafloor cabled observatory

The overall goal is to develop the framework for a full IODP proposal to be submitted in 2018. By the end of the meeting, we will identify a group of proponents who will lead the effort in writing the proposal. We will also identify gaps in expertise and begin reaching out to those individuals after the workshop.