IODP JOIDES Resolution Expedition 356 Indonesian Throughflow August-October 2015, North West Australian Shelf
August 21, 2015 - Arrival in warmer waters
After the Perth Basin, our present station is in the Carnarvon Basin, one of NW Australia's busiest gas fields. In fact it looks very crowded on the map, but FPSOs and drilling rigs are far away from us. Nevertheless, gigantic gas flares can be seen night and day and are good reference points for when the JR was turned into the wind again.
Now that we got into the core flow at this new site, we traded one inconvenience for another. The previous cores contained ample sponge spicules. And sooner or later everyone had them on their hands even if you were as careful as ever. I picked my micropaleontology samples in rubber gloves to keep those pesky needles at bay. In fact, the transparent spicules floated on top of the samples after sieving and settled highly concentrated on the sample surface. The rumor went around that at some point we even contaminated the bathroom... haha.
Here at the new site spicules are less abundant, but we got very strong H2S outgassing. Techs are wearing little senors which warn you before you take a whif too deep of this smelly gas and become a headless chicken. Even if critical concentrations are mostly not reached outdoors, the stink now permeates the core laboratory and goes down the staircase all the way to the mess. Additional to the H2S we also got a pungent hydrocarbon smell in some cores. Gas pressure can get very high during recovery to the surface. The catwalk has to be shielded while the liner is pulled out of the pipe since pieces of sediment might become projectiles. Gaps in the sediment caused by the gas have to be closed again by the techs with a piston.
August 17, 2015 - Arrival in warmer waters
We drilled the second site with two holes and found a very homogenous and expanded Pleistocene stratigraphy (and by homogenous I mean sedimentologically quite boring).
Anyway, we were accompanied by breaching Humpback whales and curious Humpback calves circling the JR.
The last two days were our longest transit from the southern sites to the northern site area. We passed Shark Bay on the right and came across bioluminescent jellyfish and little brown/orange seasnakes. We just became stationary again in visibility distance to a big industrial drilling rig and a production rig with a very big flare (otherwise we wouldn't be able to see it). That means we will have competition..... But despite this new site is going to be our deepest one (we're set to drill two holes), we are not planning to get down into the hydrocarbon bearing strata. Too dangerous. Things are now being set up for the core flow routine in the labs and rigfloor. Countdown is ticking. We're using the last remaining hours and minutes for report writing and reviewing or snake watching. Given our previous experience we are curious how conducive the geology is to coreing it with the Full APC. With the Half APC in the last sites the paleo team drowned in Core Catcher samples which needed preparation... having had a core on deck every 20 minutes.
August 12, 2015 - We got a winner
One of the photos of me was among this week's photos that will be uploaded to Facebook. Notice my trusted Zeiss microscope with camera and the blue pocket-sized SEM next to me. In the background there's the rigwatch drilling monitor which can also be switched to rigfloor camera.... or in case of important sport event... to that.
The second picture shows one of the lucky Japanese geochemists who got a special ticket for a core sneak peek before the very first hole was spudded. The PAL team gets the core catchers, which can be processed immediately. In contrary, the sedimentologist team will have to wait 5 hours before they can saw open the cores because they want the sediment to warm up and equilibrate with the laboratory room temperature.
August 9, 2015 - Waiting on Weater to drill the K/Pg?
After Holes A and B were drilled a lot was learned about the local characteristics of dolomitized limestones and how they have to be drilled through. We do have the unfortunate back and forth between soft and hard layers here at our first site. The nanno paleontologists found out that we reached the Miocene target age much before the planned total depth of around 300m. Anyway, the co-chiefs applied for an extension to about 400m total depth since chances are good that the PETM and the K/Pg boundary could be drilled in those following meters. This is in so far interesting since the K/Pg boundary is NOWHERE in whole Australia present. A a high impact publication might be due if that older rock, which was NOT in the scientific prospectus might be hit. During the meeting Craig (UTIG) could confirm that IODP in Texas gave green light to drill deeper since safety concerns are rather non-existant. No methane was detected in the geochem. lab. Right now we are WOWing (waiting on weather) because some very high swell is coming in from Antarctica and creating waves 4-5 m high. That is no problem for the ship, but exceeds the capabilities of the heave compensator. At least until Monday morning we will have to hold out. Nevertheless, the waves didn't stop the Sunday barbecue on deck below the bridge. But you better hold tight to the table when eating your steak on 5 m waves. And also bring a coat, it's quite chilly and windy outside with only 15 degrees. Even the water is 21 degrees.
Many people might gain some kg here. Warm meals are served every 6h. After a first excitement I learned to tone it down from 3 hot meals to only one plus some yoghurt...haha It's good, waiting when you arrive, and very plentiful.
August 4, 2015 - Roots down!
It's going to get busy soon.
Thrusters have been lowered, the Philippinos started working around on the drillfloor, I got a live camera screen next to me to see when the cores are popping up and it's my call to run out and get the core catcher for the paleo people. In two hours, they announced, the first sediments will hit the deck, go into the prep lab and then land under my "Beer" microscope. The microscope units got funny names to keep things clear. Jeroen (Dutch) from Bremen, next to me, is working with "Skull", the nanno microscope in my back used by Jorentje (Dutch) is called"Strawberry", the off-shift girl from Indonesia works with "Grape" for her nannos.
The paleo people started handing out tickets to people who can have the very first look at sediments. We are very sought after, since the sedimentologists will have to wait at least 5 hours until they can have a look at their cores. The reason is that the sediment will first sit on racks in the lab to equilibrate with lab temperature, go through the whole core analyses, and then get split in half. The core catchers for micropaleo though don't require all these processes and can be preped directly and analyzed after.
We're fed round the clock . They cook almost round the clock and for multiple shifts since science and support crews are on different schedules.
For more information visit http://iodp.tamu.edu