PERSPECTIVE OF ARCTIC DEEP-SEA DRILLING AND THE AURORA BOREALIS PROJECTThe geologic and paleoenvironmental histories of the Arctic Ocean basin are largely unknown because, in contrast to other oceans, it has not been possibleto sample and date the sedimentary record preserved in the basin beyond the length of a single core. As a result, the bulk of the Cenozoic record and all of theMesozoic record have not been studied. Paleoclimatic questions posed by scientific ocean drilling at lower latitudes require answers that can only be obtained by drilling deep beneath the Arctic Ocean seafloor. Restricted by the circulating sea ice, scientific drilling has been slow to arrive in the Arctic Ocean. After JOIDES RESOLUTION (escorted by an icebreaker; ODP Leg 151) had drilled the Yermak Plateau, it was not until 2004 that the famous ACEX expedition (an ECORD effort based on a drill ship escorted by 2 icebreakers) penetrated several hundred meters into the sedimentary sequence on top of Lomonosov Ridge, thereby proving that deep-sea drilling in permanently sea ice-covered ocean basis is feasible. Inspired by these successes, the European Polar Board of ESF and ECORD several years ago developed a plan for future work in the central Arctic Ocean which called for a novel research ship, known as the AURORA BOREALIS. This ship would be able to operate independently year-round in the Arctic Ocean. It would alsobe able to carry out deep-sea drilling expeditions during the favorable summer months with optimal ice conditions. It could become one of the alternate IODP mission specific drilling platforms. Funding is presently available to develop the technical specifications and preliminary design of the ship. European funding is sought for to prepare for the financial, legal and operational framework of the ship which will require the formation of an international consortium of interested partners. A dedicated Arctic Ocean drillship would require a pool of prepared sites ready for drilling. The preparation of drill sites requires substantial site survey work, but sufficient seimic reflection lines from the major structural units of the central Arctic Ocedan are available to define locations with great scientific promise. Several examples of potential drill sites will be presented.
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