Drilling Across the Arctic Ocean?

Published
American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

The first day of the 3P Arctic Conference & Exhibition is 29 September. Erik Lundin, of Statoil, will welcome attendees and introduce three speakers for the opening and plenary session. Bernard Coakley, Univeristy of Alaska, will join Jonathan Bujak, Bujak Research International, and Geir Richardson, Statoil, on the platform.

Professor Coakley was born and grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and attended the two primary universities in that state, graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in Geology in 1981. He received an MS degree from Louisiana State University and completed a PhD at Columbia University for work done at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. He followed with his post-doc at the University of Wisconsin. Since 2002 he has been a professor with a joint appointment at both the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Geophysical Institute.

After completing his post-doc he returned to Lamont-Doherty to begin working on the Arctic Ocean. He participated in the SCICEX program of dedicated arctic science cruises, supported by US. Navy fast attack submarines, sailing in 1993,1995 and 1999. Since then he has worked primarily from icebreakers, collecting gravity anomaly, swath bathymetry, seismic reflection and seismic refraction data across the major ridges and along the outer shelves of the basin. He has been a consistent advocate for scientific drilling in the Arctic Ocean and is a proponent on many of the active proposals in the IODP system as well as the lead proponent for a proposal to sample the sediments in and around the Chukchi Borderland.

Abstract: Ground truth for the Arctic Ocean; the need for scientific ocean drilling

From plate tectonics, which has enabled understanding of the history of the ocean basins, we understand the history of most continental margins. In the Arctic, we do not understand the history of the Amerasia Basin, north of Alaska, Siberia and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and have been forced to infer the basin history from observations made on the adjacent continents. This is the opposite of how geology has advanced for the last 50 years.

When I first sailed to the Arctic Ocean in 1993 on the US Navy fast attack submarine the USS Pargo, our hypotheses were about the location of the ridges and basins subdividing the Amerasia Basin. We were wrong, sometimes surprisingly so. Slowly we have accumulated bathymetry and seismic reflection data from the Arctic Ocean, most recently, in support of the Arctic coastal states Extended Continental Shelf mapping programs. These data have made it possible to articulate and test hypotheses about the origin of the features in the basin and reveal complex stratigraphic relationships that are, for the most part, unconstrained by stratigraphic age dates.

Scientific Ocean drilling data are needed to provide ground truth for these acoustic images of stratigraphy, to make it possible to expand the observed geometry of these relationships into geologic time and construct a consistent historical story from these data. So far there has been one drilling leg to the central Arctic Ocean. The ACEX expedition sampled the largely pelagic record preserved on Lomonosov Ridge and yielded many surprises about the paleo-oceanography of the central Arctic Ocean. Further scientific drilling, both in ice covered regions and in open water, are necessary to elucidate the history of this largely unknown ocean basin. This talk will discuss active proposals and planned drilling across the Arctic Ocean, highlighting the scientific objectives for sampling the sedimentary column.

Learn more about the 3P Arctic Conference & Exhibition.

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